Causal and noncausal conditionals: An integrated model of interpretation and reasoning

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We present an integrated model for the understanding of and the reasoning from conditional statements. Central assumptions from several approaches are integrated into a causal path model. According to the model, the cognitive availability of exceptions to a conditional reduces the subjective conditional probability of the consequent, given the antecedent. This conditional probability determines people's degree of belief in the conditional, which in turn affects their willingness to accept logically valid inferences. In addition to this indirect pathway, the model contains a direct pathway: Availability of exceptional situations directly reduces the endorsement of valid inferences. We tested the integrated model with three experiments using conditional statements embedded in pseudonaturalistic cover stories. An explicitly mentioned causal link between antecedent and consequent was either present (causal conditionals) or absent (arbitrary conditionals). The model was supported for the causal but not for the arbitrary conditional statements.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany

Publication date: January 1, 2005

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