On the nature of mental models of conditional: The case of if , if then , and only if

Thinking and Reasoning 9 (4):289 – 306 (2003)
It has recently been reported that forward inferences from if p then q sentences (i.e., from antecedent to consequent) were faster than backward inferences from consequent to antecedent (Barrouillet, Grosset, & Lecas, 2000). The standard mental model theory assumes that this directionality effect is a figural effect due to the order the information enters working memory, whereas we claim that it results from the nature of the mental models that represent oriented relations from hypothetical values introduced by the word If . We tested these hypotheses in an experiment in which adult participants evaluated conditional syllogisms from either if p then q , p only if q , or p if q statements. Contrary to the predictions resulting from the standard theory, the three forms of the conditional provoked a reversed directionality effect and denial inferences took longer to endorse than affirmative inferences for all the forms of conditionals. We argue from these results that mental models of the conditional represent oriented relations instead of mere co-occurrences between events.
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