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Gricean charity: The Gricean turn in psychology

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 36 (2):193-218 (2006)
Abstract
Psychologists' work on conversational pragmatics and judgment suggests a refreshing approach to charitable interpretation and theorizing. This charitable approach—what I call Gricean charity —recognizes the role of conversational assumptions and norms in subject-experimenter communication. In this paper, I outline the methodological lessons Gricean charity gleans from psychologists' work in conversational pragmatics. In particular, Gricean charity imposes specific evidential standards requiring that researchers collect empirical information about (1) the conditions of successful and unsuccessful communication for specific experimental contexts, and (2) the conversational norms governing communication in experimental contexts. More generally, the Gricean turn in psychological research shifts focus from attributional to reflexive, situational explanations. Gricean charity does not primarily seek to rationalize subject responses. Rather, it imposes evidential requirements on psychological studies for the purpose of gaining a more accurate picture of the surprising and muddled ways in which we weigh evidence and draw. Key Words: Gricean charity • methodological rationalism • interpretation • principle of charity • cognitive psychology • conversational pragmatics • heuristics and biases • reflexive analysis.
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