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Facilitation with abstract deontic rules

In addition to explaining patterns of facilitation for rules with concrete thematic content, Cheng and Holyoak (1985) demonstrated that facilitation could be obtained even for an abstract permission rule, "If one is to take action A, then one must first satisfy precondition P". Similarly, Cheng and Holyoak (1989) found that selection performance was significantly better for an abstract statement of a conditional precaution (a form ofpermission in which the precondition for engaging in a hazardous activity is to take a prudent precautionary measure) than for an arbitrary rule. Although devoid of specific thematic content, such abstract rules appear to evoke regulation schemas that guide reasoning. These demonstrations ofselective facilitation for non-arbitrary but abstract rules are not readily explicable either by alternative accounts of human reasoning based on memory for specific counter-examples (e.g. Griggs & Cox, 1982), by current proposals involving content-free, proof-theoretic inference rules (e.g. Braine & O'Brien, 1991), or by current proposals involving content-free, model-theoretic procedures (e.g. Johnson-Laird & Byrne, 1991).