Reasoning Serves Argumentation in Children

Cognitive Development, Vol. 26, No.3, pp. 177–191, 2011

33 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2011 Last revised: 6 Sep 2011

Date Written: December 14, 2010


The argumentative theory of reasoning 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 reasoning’s argumentive features are in fact purely learnt. In this article evidence is reviewed suggesting that there is a special relation between reasoning and argumentation as soon as children start to reason. More specifically, it will be argued (i) that children possess basic argument skills, (ii) that they are able reap the benefits of group reasoning from very early on, (iii) that the confirmation bias is present as soon as they start to argue and, (iv) that children can be victims of the same biases that affect adults when they use reasoning in the wrong contexts. These results strengthen the argumentative theory of reasoning, and support a plea for more research on the interactive features of reasoning both in adults and children.

Keywords: Reasoning, Argumentation, Group reasoning, Collaborative learning, Confirmation bias.

Suggested Citation

Mercier, Hugo, Reasoning Serves Argumentation in Children (December 14, 2010). Cognitive Development, Vol. 26, No.3, pp. 177–191, 2011, Available at SSRN:

Hugo Mercier (Contact Author)

University of Neuchatel ( email )

Espace Louis Agassiz 1
Neuchâtel, 2000

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