Possible worlds truth table task

Cognition 238 (105507):1-24 (2023)
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Abstract

In this paper, a novel experimental task is developed for testing the highly influential, but experimentally underexplored, possible worlds account of conditionals (Stalnaker, 1968; Lewis, 1973). In Experiment 1, this new task is used to test both indicative and subjunctive conditionals. For indicative conditionals, five competing truth tables are compared, including the previously untested, multi-dimensional possible worlds semantics of Bradley (2012). In Experiment 2, these results are replicated and it is shown that they cannot be accounted for by an alternative hypothesis proposed by our reviewers. In Experiment 3, individual variation in truth assignments of indicative conditionals is investigated via Bayesian mixture models that classify participants as following one of several competing models. As a novelty of this study, it is found that a possible worlds semantics of Lewis and Stalnaker is capable of accounting for participants’ aggregate truth value assignments in this task. Applied to indicative conditionals, we show across three experiments, that the theory both captures participants’ truth values at the aggregate level (Experiments 1 and 2) and that it makes up the largest subgroup in the analysis of individual variation in our experimental paradigm (Experiment 3).

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Niels Skovgaard-Olsen
University of Freiburg

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References found in this work

Word and Object.Willard Van Orman Quine - 1960 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
Scorekeeping in a language game.David Lewis - 1979 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 8 (1):339--359.
Context.Robert Stalnaker - 2014 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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