A Re-examination of illusory inferences based on factual conditional sentences

Mind and Society 2 (2):9-25 (2001)
Abstract
According to mental model theory, illusory inferences are a class of deductions in which individuals systematically go wrong. Mental model theory explains them invoking the principle of truth, which is a tendency not to represent models that falsify the premises. In this paper we focus on the illusory problems based on conditional sentences. In three experiments, we show that: (a) rather than not representing models that falsify the conditionals, participants have a different understanding of what falsifies a conditional (Experiment I); (b) specifically, participants think that a conditional with an impossible antecedent or consequent is false (Experiment 2); (c) if the domain of the conditionals in the illusory problems are expanded to show that their antecedents and consequents are possible, the participants find it easy to reach the correct conclusions (Experiment 3). According to our results, the illusory inferences based on conditional premises, differently from those based on disjunctive premises, are caused by a difference between the understanding of natural language factual conditionals and the truth table of the factual implication; the principle of truth is not necessary to explain them
Keywords Illusions  illusory inferences  mental models  conditionals  deduction  reasoning  truth principle
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