David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Cognitive Science 34 (8):1452-1482 (2010)
Generic statements (e.g., “Birds lay eggs”) express generalizations about categories. In this paper, we hypothesized that there is a paradoxical asymmetry at the core of generic meaning, such that these sentences have extremely strong implications but require little evidence to be judged true. Four experiments confirmed the hypothesized asymmetry: Participants interpreted novel generics such as “Lorches have purple feathers” as referring to nearly all lorches, but they judged the same novel generics to be true given a wide range of prevalence levels (e.g., even when only 10% or 30% of lorches had purple feathers). A second hypothesis, also confirmed by the results, was that novel generic sentences about dangerous or distinctive properties would be more acceptable than generic sentences that were similar but did not have these connotations. In addition to clarifying important aspects of generics’ meaning, these findings are applicable to a range of real-world processes such as stereotyping and political discourse
|Keywords||Truth conditions Concepts Quantifiers Semantics Prevalence implications Generic language|
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Citations of this work BETA
Sandeep Prasada, Sangeet Khemlani, Sarah-Jane Leslie & Sam Glucksberg (2013). Conceptual Distinctions Amongst Generics. Cognition 126 (3):405-422.
Sarah-Jane Leslie (2013). Generics Oversimplified. Noûs 47 (3):28-54.
Mark Johnston & Sarah-Jane Leslie (2012). Concepts, Analysis, Generics and the Canberra Plan1. Philosophical Perspectives 26 (1):113-171.
Rachel Katharine Sterken (2015). Generics, Content and Cognitive Bias. Analytic Philosophy 56 (1):75-93.
Ofra Magidor (2011). Arguments by Leibniz’s Law in Metaphysics. Philosophy Compass 6 (3):180-195.
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