Explanation and Abductive Inference

Tania Lombrozo

in The Oxford Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199734689
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Explanation and Abductive Inference

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience



Everyday cognition reveals a sophisticated capacity to seek, generate, and evaluate explanations for the social and physical worlds around us. Why are we so driven to explain, and what accounts for our systematic explanatory preferences? This chapter reviews evidence from cognitive psychology and cognitive development concerning the structure and function of explanations, with a focus on the role of explanations in learning and inference. The findings highlight the value of understanding explanation and abductive inference both as phenomena in their own right and for the insights they provide concerning foundational aspects of human cognition, such as representation, learning, and inference.

Keywords: explanation; understanding; abduction; abductive inference; inference to the best explanation; self-explanation

Article.  12392 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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