The Truth of Conditional Assertions

Cognitive Science 42 (8):2502-2533 (2018)
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Abstract

Given a basic conditional of the form, If A then C, individuals usually list three cases as possible: A and C, not‐A and not‐C, not‐A and C. This result corroborates the theory of mental models. By contrast, individuals often judge that the conditional is true only in the case of A and C, and that cases of not‐A are irrelevant to its truth or falsity. This result corroborates other theories of conditionals. To resolve the discrepancy, we devised two new tasks: the “collective” truth task, in which participants judged whether sets of assertions about a specific individual, such as: If A then C, not‐A, C, could all be true at the same time; and one in which participants judged the truth of conditional predictions about specific future events. The results consistently matched the three possibilities, thereby corroborating the model theory. They also showed a massive violation of the probability calculus in estimates of the probabilities of the four cases in the partition of conditionals (A and C, A and not‐C, not‐A and C, and not‐A and not‐C), which summed to over 200%.

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Peder Johnson
University of New Mexico

References found in this work

On Denoting.Bertrand Russell - 1905 - Mind 14 (56):479-493.
On referring.Peter F. Strawson - 1950 - Mind 59 (235):320-344.
Logic and Conversation.H. Paul Grice - 1989 - In Studies in the Way of Words. Harvard University Press. pp. 22-40.

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