The Negated Conditional: A Litmus Test for the Suppositional Conditional?

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Abstract

Under the suppositional account of conditionals, when people think about a conditional assertion, “if p then q,” they engage in a mental simulation in which they imagine p holds and evaluate the probability that q holds under this supposition. One implication of this account is that belief in a conditional equates to conditional probability [P(q/p)]. In this paper, the authors examine a further implication of this analysis with respect to the wide-scope negation of conditional assertions, “it is not the case that if p then q.” Under the suppositional account, nothing categorically follows from the negation of a conditional, other than a second conditional, “if p then not-q.” In contrast, according to the mental model theory, a negated conditional is consistent only with the determinate state of affairs, p and not-q. In 4 experiments, the authors compare the contrasting predictions that arise from each of these accounts. The findings are consistent with the suppositional theory but are incongruent with the mental model theory of conditionals.

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