Connecting Selective Induction and Executive Function

Abstract

Category based induction is the process by which individuals project prior knowledge from one category to another based on salient relations between the categories. Research suggests that people do this selectively by making different inferences for different properties. Such selectivity may be related to executive function(i.e. the ability to suppress initial responses and consider alternatives). Our experiment explored the connection between selective induction and executive function. Subjects were given three tasks. In the induction task participants were asked whether two related species shared a property. We varied property, relation, and the amount time people had to respond. Executive function tasks were a classic Stroop interference task as well as a Semantic Inhibitory Control task. We anticipated that inferences would be selective (i.e., that frequency of inferences should vary with inter-species relations and property). We also expected that interference on the executive function tasks should predict selectivity on the induction task, and that this might be strongest under time pressure. Our results showed clear evidence of selective reasoning, and typical patterns of interference on the executive function tasks. We also found a connection between executive function and selectivity in which participants who experienced more interference on the Semantic Inhibitory Control task also tended to be less selective on the speeded induction task. Our results replicate previous findings of selectivity, but also add to the literature in finding a connection between executive function and induction.