Latest results: Juhos, Quelhas & Johnson-Laird 2012

Csongor Juhos, Cristina Quelhas , and Phil Johnson-Laird have discovered that the  inferences people make reflect their assumptions about whether the conclusion pertains to past, present or future events. They report their results in the article ‘Temporal and spatial relations in sentential reasoning‘ in Cognition (2012),  122  393–404, and summarise them in the abstract to their article:

Abstract: The mental model theory postulates that the meanings of assertions, and knowledge about their context can modulate the logical meaning of sentential connectives, such as ‘‘if’’ and ‘‘or’’. One known effect of modulation is to block the representation of possibilities to which a proposition refers. But, modulation should also add relational information, such as temporal order, to models of possibilities. Three experiments tested this prediction. Experiment 1 showed that individuals spontaneously matched the tense of their conclusions (in Portuguese) to embody implied, but unexpressed, temporal relations in conditional premises. Experiment 2 demonstrated the same phenomenon in inferences from disjunctions. Experiment 3 showed that the number of such implicit relations in inferences from conditionals affects both accuracy and the speed of reasoning. These results support the modulation hypothesis.

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