The Inductive Benefit of Being Far Out: How Spatial Location of Evidence Impacts Diversity-based Reasoning

AbstractInductive reasoning is constrained by several principles that govern how we choose to generalize evidence to new cases. Here we focus on diversity principle of induction, which describes the tendency to favor inductive arguments that include a diverse sample of evidence over those that include a homogenous sample of evidence. Several studies reveal that adherence to the diversity principle is influenced by a range of conceptual processes, such as an individuals’ prior knowledge or expectations about the categories and properties represented in the evidence. In the two experiments reported here we examined a contextual factor of the available evidence – the spatial separation of evidence exemplars – that we expected would impact how people reason about diverse samples. We found that when the pictures (Experiment 1) or labels (Experiment 2) used to represent evidence exemplars were presented far apart (approximately 10 cm), participants showed a greater willingness to endorse arguments with diverse exemplars than those with homogenous sample, relative to when these exemplars were placed in close proximity (approximately 1 cm apart). We discuss these results as they relate to existing models of induction.

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