Plausibility and Visualizability in Relational Belief Revision


Belief revision is required when new facts are incompatible with existing beliefs. In the present experiment, participants changed their mind about the spatial and non-spatial relations between objects. The participants received information about relations, which were subsequently contradicted by irrefutable counterfacts. The task was to decide which of the initial relations to retain and which ones to give up. Previous experiments showed that these decisions are guided by the linguistic asymmetry between located (LO) and reference objects (RO). Reasoners have a strong preference to relocate the LO of the counterfactual relation. Our experiment explores whether this robust effect can be overwritten by the plausibility of revised beliefs; and how visualizability of problems affects revision. We found the LO-preference to be robust even when the resulting representation is implausible; and that revision is impeded when problems are easy to visualize. The results shed new light on relational belief revision in humans.

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