Hypothetical and Certain Inferences From Conditional Arguments Read in Texts

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Abstract

In 3 experiments, affirmative and hypothetical probes were presented after narrative texts containing conditional arguments. According to the data, readers represented modus ponens deductions as certain, except when it was only a weakly necessary cause of a given effect. They represented any logically invalid inferences resulting from affirming the conditional consequent as hypothetical, except when it was the effect of strongly sufficient cause. Accordingly, readers must be processing conditional syntax as an asymmetric constraint. However, the underlying causal knowledge can be sufficient either to discredit or warrant the inferences. Thus according to the theory of natural logic, readers can draw formal deductions and be convinced of their necessity. This provides further evidence that readers can represent their inferences as hypothetical (N. Campion, 2004).

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