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Superordinate principles in reasoning with causal and deontic conditionals

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We propose that the pragmatic factors that mediate everyday deduction, such as alternative and disabling conditions (e.g. Cummins et al., 1991) and additional requirements (Byrne, 1989) exert their effects on specific inferences because of their perceived relevance to more general principles, which we term SuperPs. Support for this proposal was found first in two causal inference experiments, in which it was shown that specific inferences were mediated by factors that are relevant to a more general principle, while the same inferences were unaffected by factors not relevant to the general principle. These results were extended to deontic inferences in two further experiments. Taken together, these findings show that unstated superordinate principles play a significant role in certain types of reasoning. Questions raised by the findings for the main theoretical approaches are discussed.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/135467800393920

Publication date: February 1, 2000

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