THE ROLE OF CONTEXTUAL CUES AND LOGICAL TRAINING IN DIFFERENTIATING CONDITIONAL FROM BICONDITIONAL STATEMENTS IN INFERENCE TASK pp. 173-204
Authors: Olimpia Matarazzo and Ivana Baldassarre
Abstract: In two studies we examined the role of contextual cues and logical training in differentiating conditional from biconditional statements (i.e. the statements of the form ―if p then q‖ from the statements of the form ―if and only if p then q‖) in deductive inference task (i.e. establishing which conclusions necessarily follow from syllogisms whose major premise is formed by a conditional clause). We assume that the well-documented tendency to interpret conditionals as biconditionals is due not only to pragmatic factors, such as a large amount of literature posits, but also to cognitive factors: it is much easier to understand a symmetrical (biconditional) relation between two states of affairs rather than an asymmetrical (conditional) one. We expected that this tendency would be inhibited not only by the presence of contextual cues - as alternative antecedents (e.g. c, m, r) showing that the consequent (q) can be implied by other states of affairs besides the one (p) presented in conditional clause - but also by a ―logical‖ training, that is, by elucidating the formal difference between conditionals and biconditionals. On the contrary, we expected that the statement content (abstract vs. thematic) did not affect the interpretation of conditionals as biconditionals. In the first study, three hundred twenty participants performed in counterbalanced order a conditional and a biconditional inference task introduced by a very short scenario. The experimental conditions varied in function of the following variables: discrimination between conditionals and biconditionals (embedded in the scenarios vs. inferred by participants after reading the scenarios), information facilitating the appropriate interpretation of the statements (present vs. absent), content (abstract vs. thematic). The results revealed that (1) biconditional syllogisms were easily solved in any experimental conditions; (2) conditionals generated a large amount of patterns of inferences, among which the most frequent was the biconditional one when facilitating information (i.e. alternative antecedents) was absent; on the contrary, when this information was presented, the conditional pattern of inferences was the most frequent one and the biconditional one decreased dramatically. In the second study, two hundred participants performed a conditional and a biconditional task introduced merely by the respective statements. The manipulated variables were: logical training (present vs. absent) and content (abstract vs. thematic). The results were analogous to those of the first study. On the whole, these experiments corroborate the idea that (1) biconditional interpretation of conditional statements - reconstructed from the participants‘ patterns of inferences – is due both to cognitive and pragmatic factors and that (2) reasoners are able to rectify this misinterpretation both in presence of contextual cues and of logical training. The theoretical implications of these results are discussed.
Open Access item.
Click below PDF icon for free download.
This is an Open Access item. Click above PDF icon for free download.