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Epistemology and Counterintuitiveness: Role and Relationship in Epidemiology of Cultural Representations

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Forty-nine members of the Oxford public took part in a controlled free-recall experiment, the first 'minimal counterintuitiveness theory' study to control concept inferential potential and participant selective-attention timing. Recall of counterintuitive ideas (MCI) was compared with recall of ideas expressing necessary epistemic incongruence (i.e., analytically false), analytically true ideas, and ordinary control ideas. The items expressing necessary epistemic incongruence had better recall than other items. MCI items had a mnemonic advantage over intuitive templates for participants twenty-five years and younger after a one-week delay, but MCI items did not have an advantage for older participants. There was no mnemonic advantage for immediate recall of MCI items in any age group. Analyses suggest this general failure to replicate previously found mnemonic advantages may have been due to restricting the items' inferential potential.

Affiliations: 1: Centre for Anthropology and Mind, University of Oxford, 64 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6PN, UK;, Email:; 2: Centre for Anthropology and Mind, University of Oxford, 64 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6PN, UK


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