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Two meanings of "if"? Individual differences in the interpretation of conditionals


Oberauer, Klaus; Geiger, Sonja M; Fischer, Katrin; Weidenfeld, Andrea (2007). Two meanings of "if"? Individual differences in the interpretation of conditionals. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 60(6):790-819.

Abstract

This work investigates the nature of two distinct response patterns in a probabilistic truth table evaluation task, in which people estimate the probability of a conditional on the basis of frequencies of the truth table cases. The conditional-probability pattern reflects an interpretation of conditionals as expressing a conditional probability. The conjunctive pattern suggests that some people treat conditionals as conjunctions, in line with a prediction of the mental-model theory. Experiments 1 and 2 rule out two alternative explanations of the conjunctive pattern. It does not arise from people believing that at least one case matching the conjunction of antecedent and consequent must exist for a conditional to be true, and it does not arise from people adding the converse to the given conditional. Experiment 3 establishes that people's response patterns in the probabilistic truth table task are very consistent across different conditionals, and that the two response patterns generalize to conditionals with negated antecedents and consequents. Individual differences in rating the probability of a conditional were loosely correlated with corresponding response patterns in a classical truth table evaluation task, but there was little association with people's evaluation of deductive inferences from conditionals as premises. A theoretical framework is proposed that integrates elements from the conditional-probability view with the theory of mental models. © 2007 The Experimental Psychology Society.

Abstract

This work investigates the nature of two distinct response patterns in a probabilistic truth table evaluation task, in which people estimate the probability of a conditional on the basis of frequencies of the truth table cases. The conditional-probability pattern reflects an interpretation of conditionals as expressing a conditional probability. The conjunctive pattern suggests that some people treat conditionals as conjunctions, in line with a prediction of the mental-model theory. Experiments 1 and 2 rule out two alternative explanations of the conjunctive pattern. It does not arise from people believing that at least one case matching the conjunction of antecedent and consequent must exist for a conditional to be true, and it does not arise from people adding the converse to the given conditional. Experiment 3 establishes that people's response patterns in the probabilistic truth table task are very consistent across different conditionals, and that the two response patterns generalize to conditionals with negated antecedents and consequents. Individual differences in rating the probability of a conditional were loosely correlated with corresponding response patterns in a classical truth table evaluation task, but there was little association with people's evaluation of deductive inferences from conditionals as premises. A theoretical framework is proposed that integrates elements from the conditional-probability view with the theory of mental models. © 2007 The Experimental Psychology Society.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Language:English
Date:2007
Deposited On:08 Jul 2014 08:09
Last Modified:26 Aug 2016 09:57
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:1747-0218
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/17470210600822449

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