ArgLab • Colloquium

Jos Hornikx

Argumentation schemes put to a test: Empirical research on what schemes mean to laypeople

The scheme-based approach assumes that argumentation schemes are patterns of inferences that people make in argumentative discourse. Interestingly, however, we do not know much about how people actually reason with arguments. I argue that, more than on the basis of notions such as the length, relevance or sufficiency, people reason with arguments on the basis of cognitive representations of argumentation schemes. That is, when reasoners are faced with a number of arguments, it is expected that people recognize that some arguments are more similar than others, and/or that some arguments can be grouped together. Whether the argumentation schemes have a mental representation in the reasoner’s mind remains an empirical question. If schemes are psychologically irrelevant, people should process each single argument in a unique way. If, by contrast, they intuitively use the notion of schemes, their cognitive thoughts should reflect similarities for arguments that belong to the same argumentation schemes. The goal of the presentation is to answer the question as to what extent people process everyday arguments as unique arguments or as arguments belonging to classes of schemes. Two different experimental studies are reported that were conducted to address this issue.


Jos Hornikx, Radboud University Nijmegen (the Netherlands)