Counterexamples in sentential reasoning

How do logically naive individuals determine that an inference is invalid? In logic, there are two ways to proceed: (1) make an exhaustive search but fail to find a proof of the conclusion and (2) use the interpretation of the relevant sentences to construct a counterexample--that is, a possibility consistent with the premises but inconsistent with the conclusion. We report three experiments in which the strategies that individuals use to refute invalid inferences based on sentential connectives were examined. In Experiment 1, the participants' task was to justify their evaluations, and it showed that they used counterexamples more often than any other strategy. Experiment 2 showed that they were more likely to use counterexamples to refute invalid conclusions consistent with the premises than to refute invalid conclusions inconsistent with the premises. In Experiment 3, no reliable difference was detected in the results between participants who wrote justifications and participants who did not.