Pronounced inferences: A study on inferential conditionals

Thinking and Reasoning 13 (2):105 – 133 (2007)
Abstract
An experimental study is reported which investigates the differences in interpretation between content conditionals (of various pragmatic types) and inferential conditionals. In a content conditional, the antecedent represents a requirement for the consequent to become true. In an inferential conditional, the antecedent functions as a premise and the consequent as the inferred conclusion from that premise. The linguistic difference between content and inferential conditionals is often neglected in reasoning experiments. This turns out to be unjustified, since we adduced evidence on the basis of a quantitative and a qualitative analysis that this difference has a manifest psychological relevance. For the inferential conditionals, participants appear to retrieve the order of events of the original content conditional on which it was based, before they start reasoning with it. The implications of this finding for reasoning research and linguistics will be discussed.
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