Belief revision as propositional update

In this study, we examine the problem of belief revision, defined as deciding whic h of several initially-accepted sentences to disbelieve, when new information presents a l ogical inconsistency with the initial set. In the first three experiments, the initial sentence set included a conditional sentence, a non-conditional sentence, and an inferred conclusi on drawn from the first two. The new information contradicted the inferred conclusion. Results indicated that the conditional sentences were more readily abandoned than non-c onditional sentences, even when either choice would lead to a consistent belief state, and that this preference was more pronounced when problems used natural language cover sto ries rather than symbols. The pattern of belief revision choices differed depending on whe ther the contradicted conclusion from the initial belief set had been a modus ponens or m odus tollens inference. Two additional experiments examined alternative model-theoretic definitions of minimal change to a belief state, using problems that contained multiple mo dels of the initial belief state and of the new information that provided the contradiction. The results indicated that people did not follow any of four formal definitions of minimal change on these problems. The new information and the contradiction it offered was not, for example, used to select a particular model of the initial belief state as a way of reconci ling the contradiction. The preferred revision was to retain only those initial sentences th at had the same, unambiguous truth value within and across both the initial and new info rmation sets. The study and results are presented in the context of certain logic-based for malizations of belief revision, syntactic and model-theoretic representations of belief stat es, and performance models of human deduction. Principles by which some types of sent ences might be more "entrenched" than others in the face of contradiction are also discuss ed from the perspective of induction and theory revision.
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