The Theory Of Belief-Contravening Reasoning In Social Work Practices

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The theory of belief-contravening reasoning in Social work practices

Table of Contents


Piagetian Theory: distinguishing between make-believe and hypothetical suppositions6

Decoupling: equating make-believe and hypothetical suppositions8

Situation models: partially distinguishing make-believe and hypothetical suppositions11






Practice trial performance21

Syllogism task performance22

Relation between syllogism performances24

Analysis of attribute judgments25


General discussion34

The Theory Of Belief-Contravening Reasoning In Social Work Practices


Children hear and tell all kinds of make-believe stories in the course of a day, whether the stories are enacted in the context of socio-dramatic or pretend play or imagined in the context of story-telling or book reading. As noted by others, research on children's pretend play and fictional narrative comprehension and production skills is largely independent of each other, but seems to have many common underlying connections (Bruner, 1990; Kavanaugh & Engle, 1998; Nicolopoulou, in press; Pellegrini & Galda, 1993; Trionfi, 2005). One source of commonality between these cognitive activities and a focus of this paper is that regardless of the context in which they are produced or comprehended, make-believe stories involve reference to states of affairs which violate the children's beliefs about the real world. Whether pretending or hearing a fairy tale about a princess of a far-away kingdom, the child must represent and reason about the princess, despite such propositions violating what she knows or believes to be true about the existence of the princess or her kingdom.

The present paper explores the nature and development of children's ability to engage in belief-contravening reasoning. According to the philosopher Rescher, 1961 and Rescher, 1964, the states of affairs (including events, characters, actions, objects, etc.) that are referred to in make-believe stories are treated as suppositions which contravene beliefs in a person's network of accepted beliefs. Because they are marked as suppositions, beliefs about the make-believe pretend or fictional states of affairs are distinguished from accepted beliefs. But to Rescher, the challenge of belief-contravening reasoning lies not with the suppositions being distinguished from accepted beliefs, but rather with reconciling the suppositions with a network of accepted beliefs with which they conflict. That is, although the story about the princess of a magical kingdom may be a supposition, to make sense out it, the supposition must be reconciled with accepted real-world beliefs about princesses, such as that they are royalty who live in palaces, despite believing that the particular princess and her kingdom do not exist.

Some of Rescher's philosophical claims are well supported by psychological research. One such well-supported claim is that make-believe suppositions in pretend play or fictional narratives can be competently entertained even though they are false. Even young children appear to have a firm grasp on the difference between real and make-believe (pretend or imagined) states of affairs at a very young age (Estes, Welman, & Woolley, 1989; Harris, Brown, Marriott, Whittall, & Harmer, 1991; Sharon & Woolley, 2003; Woolley & Wellman, 1993), although a variety of factors may conspire to affect their judgments (Amsel, Bobadilla, Coch, & Remy, 1996; Bourchier and Davis, 2000 and Bourchier and Davis, 2002; Harris et al., 1991; Samuels & Taylor, ...
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