Bayesian inference for the information gain model

Sven Stringer, Denny Borsboom, Eric-Jan Wagenmakers

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


One of the most popular paradigms to use for studying human reasoning involves the Wason card selection task. In this task, the participant is presented with four cards and a conditional rule (e.g., "If there is an A on one side of the card, there is always a 2 on the other side"). Participants are asked which cards should be turned to verify whether or not the rule holds. In this simple task, participants consistently provide answers that are incorrect according to formal logic. To account for these errors, several models have been proposed, one of the most prominent being the information gain model (Oaksford & Chater, Psychological Review, 101, 608-631, 1994). This model is based on the assumption that people independently select cards based on the expected information gain of turning a particular card. In this article, we present two estimation methods to fit the information gain model: a maximum likelihood procedure (programmed in R) and a bayesian procedure (programmed in WinBUGS). We compare the two procedures and illustrate the flexibility of the bayesian hierarchical procedure by applying it to data from a meta-analysis of the Wason task (Oaksford & Chater, Psychological Review, 101, 608-631, 1994). We also show that the goodness of fit of the information gain model can be assessed by inspecting the posterior predictives of the model. These bayesian procedures make it easy to apply the information gain model to empirical data. Supplemental materials may be downloaded along with this article from

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-309
Number of pages13
JournalBehavior Research Methods
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011


  • Bayes Theorem
  • Decision Making
  • Humans
  • Logic
  • Models, Psychological
  • Probability
  • Problem Solving
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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