Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

Initial Models in Conditionals: Evidence from Priming

Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

Initial Models in Conditionals: Evidence from Priming

Article excerpt

We examined the comprehension of different types of conditionals. We measured the reading time of sentences primed by different types of conditionals (Experiments 1 and 2). We found that the participants read not-p and not-q faster when it was primed by the conditional form p if q and they were slower to read p and q when it was primed by the conditional form p only if q. This effect disappeared in the second experiment, where the order of the elements was reversed (q and p and not-q and not-p). These results suggest that the conditional form p if q elicits an initial representation "from p to q" with two possibilities, while the conditional form p only if q elicits a reverse representation with only one possibility. The third experiment showed that there were effects of the order only for the conditional if p then q, which confirms the reverse representation hypothesis. We discuss the implications of these results for different theories of conditional comprehension.

Keywords: lexical conditional reasoning, priming, suppositional theory, mental model

Examinamos la comprensión de diferentes tipos de condicionales. Medimos el tiempo de lectura de frases facilitadas por diferentes tipos de condicionales (experimentos 1 y 2). Encontramos que los participantes leían no-p y no-q más rápidamente cuando era facilitada por la forma condicional p si q y que eran más lentos leyendo p y q cuando era facilitada por la forma condicional p sólo si q. Este efecto desapareció en el segundo experimento, donde el orden de los elementos se invirtió (q y p y no-q y no-p). Estos resultados sugieren que la forma del condicional p si q elicita una representación inicial "desde p a q" con dos posibilidades, mientras que la forma condicional p sólo si q elicita una representación inversa con una sola posibilidad. El tercer experimento mostró que había efectos de orden sólo para el condicional si p entonces q, lo cual confirma la hipótesis de la representación inversa. Se comentan las implicaciones de estos resultados para las diversas teorías de comprensión condicional.

Palabras clave: razonamiento condicional, priming, teoría suposicional, modelo mental

A conditional is a declarative sentence in which two propositions are joined by the connective if ... then. For example, the sentence if p, then q is a conditional, where p is the antecedent and q is the consequent. As displayed in Table 1, there are four inferences that can be obtained from a conditional: Modus Ponens (MP), Affirmation of Consequent (AC), Denial of Antecedent (DA) and Modus Tollens (MT). In a conditional sentence, MP and MT are correct inferences whereas DA and MT are fallacies. Research on conditional inference has shown that MP is more frequently accepted as a correct inference than MT, and a substantial number of reasoners accept the fallacies DA and CA as correct inferences (see Evans, Newstead, & Byrne, 1993, for a review).

For some time, research interest has been focused on the conditional form if p then q. Recently, however, more attention is being given to other ways of formulating the conditional. Research has been conducted on the conditional form p only if q and p if q. From the logical view, p only if q can be converted directly into if p then q, whereas p if q is equivalent to if q then p (Luckhardt & Bechtel, 1994).

There are several theories of conditional reasoning that differ in the ways they account for an individual's understanding of conditionals and the inferences made from these. The formal-rule theories (Braine & O'Brien, 1991; Rips, 1994) postulate that when people read a conditional sentence they make a syntactic representation by bringing to light the underlying logical form. Suppositional theory (Evans & Over, 2004; Evans, Over, & Handley, 2005; Over & Evans, 2003) proposes that people interpret everyday conditionals in naturals languages by means of the Ramsey test. According to Ramsey (1931), people who are arguing with a conditional sentence if p then q are "hypothetically adding p to their stock knowledge and arguing on that basis about q. …

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