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  • Cited by 8
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    This chapter has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Vidal, Mathieu 2016. Logical Aspects of Computational Linguistics. Celebrating 20 Years of LACL (1996–2016). Vol. 10054, Issue. , p. 291.

    Schulz, K. 2014. Fake Tense in conditional sentences: a modal approach. Natural Language Semantics, Vol. 22, Issue. 2, p. 117.

    Oaksford, Mike and Chater, Nick 2013. Dynamic inference and everyday conditional reasoning in the new paradigm. Thinking & Reasoning, Vol. 19, Issue. 3-4, p. 346.

    Swanson, Eric 2013. Subjunctive biscuit and stand-off conditionals. Philosophical Studies, Vol. 163, Issue. 3, p. 637.

    Byrne, Ruth M. J. and Tasso, Alessandra 1999. Deductive reasoning with factual, possible, and counterfactual conditionals. Memory & Cognition, Vol. 27, Issue. 4, p. 726.

    Johnson-Laird, P.N and Savary, Fabien 1999. Illusory inferences: a novel class of erroneous deductions. Cognition, Vol. 71, Issue. 3, p. 191.

    Langford, Peter E. and Hunting, Robert 1992. A Test of a Two-Stage Model of the Evaluation of Hypotheses from Quantified First-Order Predicate Logic in Information Use Tasks. Psychological Reports, Vol. 71, Issue. 3_suppl, p. 1091.

    Langford, Peter E. 1992. Evaluation Strategies for Some Nonstandard Conditionals during Adolescence. Psychological Reports, Vol. 70, Issue. 2, p. 643.

  • Print publication year: 1986
  • Online publication date: August 2010




What would count as a complete theory of conditionals? One goal for such a theory is to answer the following two questions:

(i) What do conditionals mean?

(ii) What are their logical properties?

These are matters of logical and linguistic analysis: they concern human competence. However, a complete theory of conditionals should also answer two psychological questions:

(iii) How do people understand them?

(iv) How do people reason with them?

These are matters of human performance that call for the investigation of mental processes.

There are a number of theories that provide answers to some of these four questions. Yet, despite the conceptual analyses of philosophers and logicians, the semantic and syntactic studies of linguists, and the experimental investigations of psychologists, there is no single existing theory that provides a unified and complete account of both competence and performance. My aim in this paper is accordingly to make progress towards such a theory – a theory that concerns the everyday interpretation and use of conditionals, not an idealized philosophical concept, and one that is intended as a contribution to cognitive science.

The paper has four parts. The first part considers how ordinary individuals reason with conditionals, and it describes the main approach that psychologists have taken to deductive reasoning – the theory that there are formal rules of inference in the mind. It argues, however, that this view is mistaken and that inference depends instead on a search for ‘mental models’ of premises that are counterexamples to putative conclusions.

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On Conditionals
  • Online ISBN: 9780511753466
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