Goldstone Research Unit

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Journal Article

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Cognitive Development





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The argumentative theory of reasoning (Mercier & Sperber, in press-c) claims that reasoning evolved for argumentation: to find and evaluate arguments in dialogic contexts. The theory has drawn most of its supportive evidence from work with adults, leaving open the possibility that argumentive features of reasoning are in fact entirely learned. Evidence is reviewed here suggesting that the special relation between reasoning and argumentation holds at all ages. More specifically, it is argued that (a) children possess at least rudimentary argument skills, (b) they are able to reap the benefits of social reasoning from very early on, (c) confirmation bias is present as soon as they start to argue, and (d) children can be victims of the same biases that affect adults when they use reasoning in the wrong contexts. These claims strengthen the argumentative theory of reasoning and support a call for more research on the interactive features of reasoning in both adults and children.

Copyright/Permission Statement

NOTICE: This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Cognitive Development. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms, may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Cognitive Development, Volume 26, Issue 3, July-September 2011, DOI: 10.1016/j.cogdev.2010.12.001.


reasoning, argumentation, group reasoning, collaborative learning, confirmation bias



Date Posted: 18 December 2014

This document has been peer reviewed.