L3-4 Introduction: Why is understanding the development of reasoning important?

  • Markovits H
  • Barrouillet P
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This special issue of Thinking & Reasoning focuses on the development of reasoning, with contributions from several distinguished developmental researchers. Although there is a long tradition of developmental work on reasoning, there has been a marked decrease in such studies recently. Both this fact and the reasons for it constitute the rationale for this special issue. Much of the initial impetus for research about reasoning was motivated by Piagets theory of formal operations (Inhelder & Piaget, 1958). Piaget considered that an understanding of the formal rules of inference was the epistemological basis for the kind of hypothetico-deductive mode of thinking that appears in adolescence. This led to an explosion of research focused on two (somewhat mistaken) predictions that were made from this theory, which have generally led to the present decline of both Piagetian theory and developmental research on reasoning. The first was the prediction that young children who do not possess the basic competence for formal operations (or in some cases, such as conservation and transitivity, concrete operations) will be unable to give the right answer to any problem that can be identified as concrete or formal operational. A series of studies in a variety of domains (Bryant & Trabasso, 1971; Dias & Harris, 1988; Hawkins, Pea, Glick, & Scribner, 1984) showed that very young children can respond correctly to many such problems. In fact, this basic analysis has been extended to babies (e.g., Baillargeon & DeVos, 1991) and other species such as pigeons (Von Fersen, Wynne, Delius, & Staddon, 1991).

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  • Henry Markovits

  • Pierre Barrouillet

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