Conditional probability and pragmatic conditionals: Dissociating truth and effectiveness

Thinking and Reasoning 12 (3):257 – 280 (2006)
Recent research (e.g., Evans & Over, 2004) has provided support for the hypothesis that people evaluate the probability of conditional statements of the form if p then q as the conditional probability of q given p , P( q / p ). The present paper extends this approach to pragmatic conditionals in the form of inducements (i.e., promises and threats) and advice (i.e., tips and warnings). In so doing, we demonstrate a distinction between the truth status of these conditionals and their effectiveness as speech acts. Specifically, while probability judgements of the truth of conditional inducements and advice are highly correlated with estimates of P( q / p ), their perceived effectiveness in changing behaviour instead varies as a function of the conditional probability of q given not-p , P( q / ∼p ). Finally, we show that the conditional probability approach can be extended to predicting inference rates on a conditional reasoning task.
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