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Pragmatic schemas for permission and obligation

Many theories have been advanced to account for people's performance on the selection task (for reviews see Evans, 1989, and Wason, 1983). Early observations of people's puzzling failures to solve the problem correctly with an arbitrary rule were soon compounded by equally puzzling successes observed when the rule was made more familiar or meaningful. The first evidence that content strongly influences reasoning in the selection paradigm emerged from studies by Wason and Shapiro (1971) and Johnson-Laird, Legrenzi, and Legrenzi (1972). The best-documented effects of content have been observed for conditional rules that can be interpreted as expressing deontic relations of permission or obligation, such as "If a person is to drink alcohol, then they must be at least 18 years old", for which the p and not-q cases are selected much more frequently (see, for example, Cheng & Holyoak, 1985; Cosmides, 1989; D'Andrade, 1982; Girotto, Gilly, Blaye, & Light, 1989; Johnson-Laird et aI., 1972; Light, Girotto, & Legrenzi, 1990; Manktelow & Over, 1990; 1991; Politzer & Nguyen-Xuan, 1992). Work by Girotto and his colleagues has demonstrated that children as young as six years old can solve simplified versions of the selection task when the rule is interpreted deontically (Girotto, Light, & Colburn, 1988; Light, Blaye, Gilly, & Girotto, 1990), while children as young as nine years old can solve the full selection task given deontic content (Girotto et aI., 1989). An earlier study suggests that 6-7-year-old children can solve a complete selection task based on a rule interpretable as an obligation (Legrenzi & Murino, 1974).