Conditionals and inferential connections: A hypothetical inferential theory
Intuition suggests that for a conditional to be evaluated as true, there must be some kind of connection between its component clauses. In this paper, we formulate and test a new psychological theory to account for this intuition. We combined previous semantic and psychological theorizing to propose that the key to the intuition is a relevance-driven, satisficing-bounded inferential connection between antecedent and consequent. To test our theory, we created a novel experimental paradigm in which participants were presented with a soritical series of objects, notably colored patches (Experiments 1 and 4) and spheres (Experiment 2), or both (Experiment 3), and were asked to evaluate related conditionals embodying non-causal inferential connections (such as “If patch number 5 is blue, then so is patch number 4”). All four experiments displayed a unique response pattern, in which (largely determinate) responses were sensitive to parameters determining inference strength, as well as to consequent position in the series, in a way analogous to belief bias. Experiment 3 showed that this guaranteed relevance can be suppressed, with participants reverting to the defective conditional. Experiment 4 showed that this pattern can be partly explained by a measure of inference strength. is pattern supports our theory’s “principle of relevant inference” and “principle of bounded inference,” highlighting the dual processing characteristics of the inferential connection.
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Citation : Douven, I.E., Elqayam, S. Singmann, H. and van Wijnbergen-Huitink, J. (in press) Conditionals and inferential connections: A hypothetical inferential theory. Cognitive Psychology, 101, pp.50-81.
Research Institute : Institute for Psychological Science
Peer Reviewed : Yes