Use or misuse of the selection task? Rejoinder to Fiddick, Cosmides, and Tooby


  • Sperber D
  • Girotto V

document type



Sperber, Cara, and Girotto (Cognition 52 (1995) 3) argued that, in Wason's selection task, relevance-guided comprehension processes tend to determine participants' performance and pre-empt the use of other inferential capacities. Because of this, the value of the selection task as a tool for studying human inference has been grossly overestimated. Fiddick, Cosmides, and Tooby (Cognition 77 (2000) 1) argued against Sperber et al. that specialized inferential mechanisms, in particular the ``social contract algorithm'' hypothesized by Cosmides (Cognition 31 (1989) 187), pre-empt more general comprehension abilities, making the selection task a useful tool after all. We rebut this argument. We argue and illustrate with two new experiments, that Fiddick et al. mix the true Wason selection task with a trivially simple categorization task superficially similar to the Wason task, yielding methodologically flawed evidence. We conclude that the extensive use of various kinds of selection tasks in the psychology of reasoning has been quite counter-productive and should be discontinued. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

more information