Conditional reasoning with realistic material

Thinking and Reasoning 3 (1):49 – 76 (1997)
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Four experiments are reported which investigated the types of truth tables that people associate with conditional sentences and the kinds of inferences that they will draw from them. The present studies differed from most previous ones in using different types of content in the conditionals, for example promises and warnings. It was found that the type of content had a strong and consistent effect on both truth tables and inferences. It is suggested that this is because in real life conditionals make probabilistic assertions, and that the strength of the probabilistic link is determined by the situation in which the conditional occurs. The implications of these findings for current theories of reasoning are considered and it is concluded that none of them is entirely satisfactory. It is suggested that more linguistically based theories may prove more successful.



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