Reasoning Card Selection Task Experiment Essay

Reasoning Card Selection Task Experiment


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            In the reasoning card experiment the issue with being able to answer the question right the second time when getting wrong the first time was examined.  The difference in this is not in the question or anything else however it is only through the psychological factors that cause there to be a difference in the ability to answer the question right or wrong.


            In one article entitled, “Asymmetrical Involvement of the Frontal Lobes” the authors look at a similar experiment and the reasons that the reactions are different.  The idea is that when something is familiar to someone then there is a higher likelihood of them being able to follow through or answer correctly about the same subject.  In other words, there is more of a chance that when someone is thinking logically that they will be able to follow through with basic tasks. The reason behind their being able to follow through with these basic tasks could be through their frontal lobe functioning in the brain.  This assumption would be that through frontal lobe contact and issues there could be a lot of information to be able to manage the skills and functioning.  In this article the authors also talk about their experiment in which four cards were shown to the subjects.  When the subjects were given the proper information and they could formulate the correct answer with that information they were more likely to get the answer right than being able to think through the answer on their own. (Goel, Shuren, Sheesley, and Grafman 2004).

            In this study, there were thirty four participants.  The participants were to look at cards in a reasoning card selection task.  The reasoning card selection task was developed by Peter Cathcart Wason, the test is also known as the Wason Reasoning Task.  This psychological puzzle is to formulate an answer to the following question:  “You are shown a set of four cards placed on a table each of which has a number on one side and a colored patch on the other side.  The visible faces of the cards show 3, 8, red, and brown.  Which card(s) should you turn over to test the truth of the proposition that if a card shows an even number on one face then it’s opposite face shows a primary color?” (Wason 1966 and 1971).  This type of study was chosen to experiment on the idea of psychological reasoning as it has been proven to work for this type of reasoning.

            In the study there were two identical tasks that the participants were asked to complete.  These two tasks were the same however the answers were different.  The overall idea is that the difference in results could be from the psychological aspects rather than the actual reasoning behind these issues.  Overall the tasks that were being accomplished were being looked at in different manners between the first and second and the only difference in the results (a difference of 2% correct vs 17% correct) was as a result of psychological thinking.



            There were thirty four participants in this experiment.  The participants were a range of ages who were participating in the college class with the majority of the students being traditional college students between the ages of 18 and 24.  However some of the students were outside of this range this was the majority of who was tested in the experiment.  The type of information that was collected about these participants were their age, whether or not they had a head injury, their educational levels, and gender were all a part of this information.


            The task and procedure was that there was a four card reasoning card selection task.  This task is adopted from Wason’s original task being that there are four cards and that there are questions derived from the ideas that were mentioned in the test study.  This is that there were cards with even numbers and primary colors that coordinated and therefore the questions were about assumptions along these lines.  The testing was done two times on two separate occasions with the same cards and same line of questioning.  The differences were only the psychological needs.  The test was administered in a college classroom under standard testing procedures.


            The results varied on the two tests.  On the first test there was only one participant out of the thirty-four who got the answer correct meaning that approximately 2% of the population had the correct answer to the test.  During the second test there were six out of the thirty-four participants or approximately 17% of the participants who got the correct answer.  The testing conditions and the presentation of the material was the same in both of these cases so the only difference was between the psychological components of the testing.  This means that there is some sort of evidence to state that there is a psychological distinction between the ability to answer a question in a correct or incorrect manner.


            There is a lot of discussion about the idea that there are more people who get the answer right on the second occasion.  This type of correct answering the second time is a purely psychological thing as there were no differences in the material or in the instructions just in the number of participants who were able to answer the question correctly.  There is a lot of information in literature about the cognitive abilities and the differences in the Wason testing systems.  These differences are all psychological in this test.

            One of the studies that looked at the cognitive abilities was a study by Keith Stenning and Michael van Lambalgen.  This study looked at the different types of reasoning that were used in the process of the “psychology of reasoning.”  These authors used the Wason test to see how the participants would react with two different types of logic and reasoning.  With “descriptively interpreted” (interpreted through descriptions of the way to do something, an explanation of the process is used) rules the participants had greater difficulty than with “deontically interpreted” (interpreted through someone being shown how to do something) rules.  Thus the findings were similar to our study which were that the second time the participants did much better than the first time (2004).

            From researching literature and performing the experiment, it can be assumed that in the end the cognitive ability of the brain changes as the information has been presented more than once.  Thus explaining in part why the participants were able to score better on the second time than they were on the first time.  The brain functioning and the psychological impact are a part of the change in the ability to perform on the Wason task.  The importance of such a study is to be able to learn more about the brain’s function and the cognitive ability for reasoning in the brain.  The results can be interpreted in many different ways but mostly it is possible for the brain to develop cognitive reasoning through multiple exposures to the same given subject or task.


Goel, V., Shuren, J., Sheesley, L., and Grafman, J. (2004).  Asymmetrical  Involvement

of the Frontal Lobes in Social Reasoning, Brain, 127, pp. 783-790.

Stenning, K. and Lambalgen. M.V. (2004).  A Little Logic Goes a Long Way:  Basing

Experiment on Semantic Theory in the Cognitive Science of Reasoning, Cognitive Science, 28, pp. 481-529.

Wason, P.C. (1966).  Reasoning, (Foss, M.B.) New Horizons in Psychology.

Harmondsworth:  Penguin.

Wason, P.C. (1971).  Natural and Contrived Experience in a Reasoning Problem.

Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 23, pp. 63-71.



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