Competent Deontic Reasoning: The Abstract Deontic Selection Task Revisited


The abstract deontic selection task was developed with the aim of demonstrating abstract rule use in a specific domain (i.e., deontic rules). Yet, the solution rate, while being substantially higher than with abstract non-deontic tasks, did not reach the level obtained with concrete deontic tasks. What are the reasons for this—difficulties with abstract rule use? A task analysis based on deontic principles uncovers several problems with the formulation of the task. Three experiments replicate the difficulties with the original task and show that performance increases, when the problems are resolved. The results provide novel insights into the interpretation of deontic rules and into the role that such content-specific, but abstract tasks can play for the study of reasoning processes.

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