Conditionals: A Theory of Meaning, Pragmatics, and Inference

  title={Conditionals: A Theory of Meaning, Pragmatics, and Inference},
  author={Philip N. Johnson-Laird and Ruth M. J. Byrne},
  journal={Psychological Review},
You reason about conditional relations because much of your knowledge is conditional. If you get caught speeding, then you pay a fine. If you have an operation, then you need time to recuperate. If you have money in the bank, then you can cash a check. Conditional reasoning is a central part of thinking, yet people do not always reason correctly. The lawyer Jan Schlictmann in a celebrated trial (see Harr, 1995, pp. 361–362) elicited the following information from an expert witness about the… 
What is wrong with false-link conditionals?
Abstract It is a common intuition that the antecedent of an indicative conditional should have something to do with its consequent, that they should be somehow connected. In fact, many conditionals
Pragmatics, Mental Models and One Paradox of the Material Conditional
This work identifies two joint conditions under which the inference ‘y, y’ becomes acceptable: (a) the truth of x has bearings on the relevance of asserting y; and (b) the speaker can reasonably be expected not to be in a position to assume that x is false.
Issues in Reasoning about Iffy Propositions: "The" Interpretation of Conditionals
Issues in Reasoning about Iffy Propositions: “The” Interpretation(s) of Conditionals Walter Schroyens ( Department of Psychology, University of Ghent 2, Henry Dunantlaan,
The mental model theory of free choice permissions and paradoxical disjunctive inferences
ABSTRACT Inferences of the sort: A or B; therefore A, are invalid. Yet, the paradoxes of free choice are acceptable: You can have sole or lobster; so, you can have sole. Pragmatic theories attempt
Specificity effects in reasoning with counterintuitive and arbitrary conditionals
This work varied the specificity of counterintuitive conditionals, which described the opposite of what is expected according to everyday experiences and gave higher acceptance ratings for specific than for unspecific conditionals.
The Puzzle of Conditionals with True Clauses: Against the Gricean Account
An experimental study investigating how the presence or absence of a connection between the clauses affects the assertability of conditionals and conjunction expressing generic and specific kind of content refutes the standard pragmatic explanation.
A Priori True and False Conditionals.
Three experiments corroborated the model theory that certain conditionals should be true or false without the need for evidence and considered the implications for theories of reasoning based on logic, probabilistic logic, and suppositions.
The Relation Between Factual and Counterfactual Conditionals
Two experiments supported the theory of mental models and its computer implementation that both can have a priori truth values and that the semantic bases of both are possibilities: states that are possible for factual conditionals, and that were once possible but that did not happen for counterfactual conditionals.
Reasoning with Exceptive Conditionals: The case of ‘Except If’
In this paper we outline a mental model theory (Johnson-Laird & Byrne, 1991, 2002) of reasoning about the conditional except if. We report two experiments showing that the exceptive conditional
Counterfactual ‘only if ’ conditionals
People understand a conditional, 'if A then B', such as 'if Peg went swimming then she felt well' by keeping in mind only true possibilities, e.g., A and B, not-A and not-B, not-A and B


A Theory of Conditionals
A conditional sentence expresses a proposition which is a function of two other propositions, yet not one which is a truth function of those propositions. I may know the truth values of “Willie Mays
Reasoning counterfactually: making inferences about things that didn't happen.
  • V. Thompson, R. Byrne
  • Philosophy, Psychology
    Journal of experimental psychology. Learning, memory, and cognition
  • 2002
Reasoners who made a counterfactual interpretation of subjunctive statements endorsed different inferences than those who did not and were more likely to judge the situation in which p and q occurred to be inconsistent with the conditional statement and make negative inferences such as modus tollens.
Reasoning about a Rule
  • P. Wason
  • Psychology
    The Quarterly journal of experimental psychology
  • 1968
It is argued that the subjects did not give evidence of having acquired the characteristics of Piaget's “formal operational thought,” and it is suggested that the difficulty is due to a mental set for expecting a relation of truth, correspondence, or match to hold between sentences and states of affairs.
Reasoning about Conditional Promises and Warnings: Darwinian Algorithms, Mental Models, Relevance Judgements or Pragmatic Schemas?
It is proposed that reasoning about social contracts, such as conditional promises and warnings, is under the control of a compound schema made of two pragmatic schemas (Cheng & Holyoak, 1985),
Rule-Following, Mental Models, and the Developmental View
It would be nice to believe that the “conceptual confusion” which Wittgenstein noted in the state of scientific psychology some years ago has given way to conceptual order and consensus. But of
Reasoning From Double Conditionals: The Effects of Logical Structure and Believability
We report three experimental studies of reasoning with double conditionals, i.e. problems based on premises of the form: If A then B. If B then C. where A, B, and C, describe everyday events. We
Pragmatic Schemas and the Selection Task: To Reason or Not to Reason
  • H. Markovits, F. Savary
  • Psychology
    The Quarterly journal of experimental psychology. A, Human experimental psychology
  • 1992
Results confirmed previous results indicating that permission schemas do improve selection task performance, but also suggests that this effect is not related to understanding of conditional reasoning.
Suppressing valid inferences with conditionals
An experiment was performed to determine whether the use of realistic materials would improve performance in a deceptive reasoning problem. The task involved selecting from a set of envelopes those