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The meaning(s) of conditionals: conditional probabilities, mental models, and personal utilities


Oberauer, Klaus; Wilhelm, Oliver (2003). The meaning(s) of conditionals: conditional probabilities, mental models, and personal utilities. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 29(4):680-693.

Abstract

Five experiments were conducted to test the hypothesis that people understand conditional statements ("if p then q") as indicating a high conditional probability P(q|p). Participants estimated the probability that a given conditional is true (Experiments 1A, 1B, and 3) or judged whether a conditional was true or false (Experiments 2 and 4) given information about the frequencies of the relevant truth table cases. Judgments were strongly influenced by the ratio of pq to p¬q cases, supporting the conditional probability account. In Experiments 1A, 1B, and 3, judgments were also affected by the frequency of pq cases, consistent with a version of mental model theory. Experiments 3 and 4 extended the results to thematic conditionals and showed that the pragmatic utility associated with believing a statement also affected the degree of belief in conditionals but not in logically equivalent quantified statements.

Abstract

Five experiments were conducted to test the hypothesis that people understand conditional statements ("if p then q") as indicating a high conditional probability P(q|p). Participants estimated the probability that a given conditional is true (Experiments 1A, 1B, and 3) or judged whether a conditional was true or false (Experiments 2 and 4) given information about the frequencies of the relevant truth table cases. Judgments were strongly influenced by the ratio of pq to p¬q cases, supporting the conditional probability account. In Experiments 1A, 1B, and 3, judgments were also affected by the frequency of pq cases, consistent with a version of mental model theory. Experiments 3 and 4 extended the results to thematic conditionals and showed that the pragmatic utility associated with believing a statement also affected the degree of belief in conditionals but not in logically equivalent quantified statements.

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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:2003
Deposited On:09 Jul 2014 12:09
Last Modified:08 Dec 2017 06:20
Publisher:American Psychological Association
ISSN:0278-7393
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1037/0278-7393.29.4.680
PubMed ID:12924867

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