Inspection times and the selection task: What do eye-movements reveal about relevance effects?

Three experiments are reported that used eye-movement tracking to investigate the inspectiontime effect predicted by Evans’ (1996) heuristic–analytic account of the Wason selection task. Evans’ account proposes that card selections are based on the operation of relevance-determining heuristics, whilst analytic processing only rationalizes selections. As such, longer inspection times should be associated with selected cards (which are subjected to rationalization) than with rejected cards. Evidence for this effect has been provided by Evans (1996) using computerpresented selection tasks and instructions for participants to indicate (with a mouse pointer) cards under consideration. Roberts (1998b) has argued that mouse pointing gives rise to artefactual support for Evans’ predictions because of biases associated with the task format and the use of mouse pointing. We eradicated all sources of artefact by combining careful task constructions with eye-movement tracking to measure directly on-line attentional processing. All three experiments produced good evidence for the robustness of the inspection-time effect, supporting the predictions of the heuristic–analytic account.