Reasoning and argumentation

Although argumentation plays an essential role in our lives, there is no integrated area of research on the psychology of argumentation. Instead research on argumentation is conducted in a number of separate research communities that are spread across disciplines and have only limited interaction. Cognitive psychological research on argumentation has focused mostly on argument as a reason, and argument as structured sequence of reasons and claims. A third meaning of argument has been neglected: argument as a social exchange. All meanings are integral to a complete understanding of human reasoning and cognition. In this special issue, we present work that is relevant to all these three meanings of argument. The papers by Heit and Rotello (on the effect of argument length on inductive reasoning), by Harris, Hsu and Madsen (on a Bayesian test of the ad Hominem fallacy), and by Thompson and Evans (on belief bias in informal reasoning tasks) focus on arguments as reasons. By contrast, the contributions by Van Eemeren, Garssen, and Meuffels (on the reasonableness of the disguised abusive ad hominem fallacy), by Hoeken, Timmers, and Schellens (on argument quality and convincing arguments), by Mercier and Strickland (on how arguments can be evaluated from audience reactions), and by Bonnefon (on generating consequential arguments) deal intrinsically with situations where there are multiple protagonists in a communicative exchange. By including these papers, by researchers from a range of theoretical backgrounds, this special issue underlines the breadth of argumentation research as well as stresses opportunities for mutual awareness and integration.

  • Hahn, U., & Hornikx, J. (2012). Reasoning and argumentation [A special issue of Thinking and Reasoning]. London: Psychology Press. [link]

Reasoning and argumentation: Towards an integrated psychology of argumentation

Although argumentation plays an essential role in our lives, there is no integrated area of research on the psychology of argumentation. Instead research on argumentation is conducted in a number of separate research communities that are spread across disciplines and have only limited interaction. With a view to bridging these different strands, we first distinguish between three meanings of the word “argument”: argument as a reason, argument as a structured sequence of reasons and claims, and argument as a social exchange. All three meanings are integral to a complete understanding of human reasoning and cognition. Cognitive psychological research on argumentation has focused mostly on the first and second of these meanings, so we present perspectives on argumentation from outside of cognitive psychology, which focus on the second and third. Specifically, we give an overview of the methods, goals, and disciplinary backgrounds of research on the production, the analysis, and the evaluation of arguments. Finally, in introducing the experimental studies included in this special issue, which were conducted by researchers from a range of theoretical backgrounds, we underline the breadth of argumentation research as well as stress opportunities for mutual awareness and integration.

  • Hornikx, J., & Hahn, U. (2012). Reasoning and argumentation: Towards an integrated psychology of argumentation. Thinking and Reasoning, 18 (3), 225-243. [pdf upon request; publisher]

Persuasive evidence in India

Research on persuasive evidence types has been limited to Western cultures. Because Western systems of thought are claimed to be fundamentally different from Eastern systems of thought, the persuasiveness of evidence types was explored in one Eastern culture. Indians (N = 183) judged claims supported by different evidence types.  Statistical, expert, and causal evidence were found to be equally persuasive as support for claims.  Indians also appeared sensitive to evidence quality that was manipulated according to Western norms for reasonable argumentation: normatively strong evidence was more persuasive than normatively weak evidence.  Findings are compared to results from studies conducted in Western cultures.

  • Hornikx, J. & Best, J. de (2011). Persuasive evidence in India: An investigation of the impact of evidence types and evidence quality. Argumentation and Advocacy, 47 (4), 246-257. [pdf]

Epistemic authority of professors and researchers

Teachers and researchers are considered epistemic authorities that provide reliable information if that information is relevant to their discipline. Students differentiate between relevant and irrelevant disciplines when assessing teachers’ expertise. In this paper, it is investigated whether students’ cultural-educational background plays a role in this differentiation between relevant and irrelevant disciplines. In large power distance cultures such as France, students learn to respect and obey their teacher, whereas in smaller power distance cultures such as the Netherlands, the relationships between students and teachers are more informal. Therefore, French students may be less sensitive to the actual discipline when assessing a source’s expertise. In an experiment, it was empirically tested whether French students perceived smaller differences than Dutch students between fictitious professors and researchers who put forward information that is or is not related to their own discipline. Results showed that the French participants indeed differentiated to a much lesser degree between professors and researchers with a relevant and an irrelevant discipline than the Dutch participants. Further analyses indicated that students’ obedience partially mediated this effect of nationality on the difference between relevant and irrelevant disciplines. This study underlines the role that cultural-educational background can play in the assessments of epistemic authorities.

  • Hornikx, J. (2011). Epistemic authority of professors and researchers: Differential perceptions by students from two cultural-educational systems. Social Psychology of Education, 14 (2), 169-183.

Review of “Fallacies and judgments of reasonableness: Empirical research concerning the pragma-dialectical discussion rules”

One of the core concepts in argumentation theory are fallacies, often considered to be arguments that seem valid but that are invalid. Argumentation scholars and philosophers, such as Aristotle, Locke and Hamblin, have approached fallacies from a theoretical and non-empirical perspective. Such an approach has enabled the field of argumentation theory to intensively reflect on the concept of fallacies. A disadvantage of such an approach, however, is that it is naturally limited to the views and knowledge of argumentation theorists themselves. How would ordinary language users respond to fallacies? Would these laymen also consider fallacies to be unreasonable? Frans van Eemeren, Bart Garssen and Bert Meuffels have addressed this question by conducting an impressive set of experiments in the course of 10 years, involving more than 1900 participants. In Fallacies and judgments of reasonableness, they introduce these studies, present their results, and conclude that laymen’s conceptions of reasonableness are very similar to the theoretical conceptions of reasonableness in their own pragma-dialectical approach to argumentation.

  • Hornikx, J. (2010). Review of “Fallacies and judgments of reasonableness: Empirical research concerning the pragma-dialectical discussion rules” by Frans H. van Eemeren, Bart Garssen and Bert Meuffels. Information Design Journal, 18 (2), 175-177. [pdf]

Aankondiging van “Argumentation in practice”

‘Argumentation in practice’ brengt onder redactie van Frans H. van Eemeren en Peter Houtlosser een verzameling bijdragen bij elkaar van hedendaags onderzoek naar argumentatie in de praktijk. Sinds de tweede helft van de vorige eeuw heeft de argumentatietheorie zich tot een bloeiend, interdisciplinair en internationaal wetenschapsgebied ontwikkeld. In het begin, zo betogen de redacteuren in hun voorwoord, lag de nadruk op het bouwen van theorieën, benaderingswijzen en modellen. Vanaf de jaren 80 heeft die aandacht zich gedeeltelijk verlegd naar de praktijk van argumentatie. Hoe ziet argumentatie er in het dagelijkse leven uit? Hoe kan de argumentatietheorie een bijdrage leveren aan het analyseren van het discours op het gebied van politiek, wetenschap en onderhandelingen?

  • Hornikx, J. (2005). Aankondiging van: Frans H. van Eemeren en Peter Houtlosser (red.) (2005). Argumentation in practice. Tijdschrift voor Taalbeheersing, 27 (4), 336-337. [pdf]