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Abductive Reasoning in Cognitive Neuroscience:Weak and Strong Reverse Inference

Calzavarini, Fabrizio and CEVOLANI, Gustavo (2022) Abductive Reasoning in Cognitive Neuroscience:Weak and Strong Reverse Inference. Synthese. ISSN 0039-7857

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Reverse inference is a crucial inferential strategy used in cognitive neuroscience to derive conclusions about the engagement of cognitive processes from patterns of brain activation. While widely employed in experimental studies, it is now viewed with increasing scepticism within the neuroscience community. One problem with reverse inference is that it is logically invalid, being an instance of abduction in Peirce’s sense. In this paper, we offer the first systematic analysis of reverse inference as a form of abductive reasoning and highlight some relevant implications for the current debate. We start by formalising an important distinction that has been entirely neglected in the literature, namely the distinction between weak (strategic) and strong (justificatory) reverse inference. Then, we rely on case studies from recent neuroscientific research to systematically discuss the role and limits of both strong and weak reverse inference; in particular, we offer the first exploration of weak reverse inference as a discovery strategy within cognitive neuroscience.

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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
CEVOLANI, Gustavogustavo.cevolani@imtlucca.it0000-0001-8770-8877
Keywords: Abductive Reasoning, Reverse Inference, Cognitive neuroscience
Depositing User: Dr. Fabrizio Calzavarini
Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2022 00:38
Last Modified: 24 Jan 2022 00:38
Item ID: 20134
Journal or Publication Title: Synthese
Date: 2022
ISSN: 0039-7857

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