When is a conclusion worth deriving? A relevance-based analysis of indeterminate relational problems

Thinking and Reasoning 8 (1):1 – 20 (2002)
When is a conclusion worth deriving? We claim that a conclusion is worth deriving to the extent that it is relevant in the sense of relevance theory (Sperber & Wilson, 1995). To support this hypothesis, we experiment with ''indeterminate relational problems'' where we ask participants what, if anything, follows from premises such as A is taller than B, A is taller than C . With such problems, the indeterminate response that nothing follows is common, and we explain why. We distinguish several types of determinate conclusions and show that their rate is a function of their relevance. We argue that by appropriately changing the formulation of the premises, the relevance of determinate conclusions can be increased, and the rate of indeterminate responses thereby reduced. We contrast these relevance-based predictions with predictions based on linguistic congruence.
Keywords reasoning, psychology, deduction, relevance theory
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Hugo Mercier (2012). Looking for Arguments. Argumentation 26 (3):305-324.

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