Understanding causal conditionals: A study of individual differences

Jonathan St B T Evans, Simon J. Handley, Helen Neilens, David Over

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Previous studies have suggested that a minority of university students, of lower cognitive ability, are inclined to interpret abstract conditional statements, if p then q, as if they were conjunctions: p and q. In the present study we administered the conditional truth table task to a large sample of students (n = 160), but using realistic, everyday causal conditionals. We also measured their general intelligence. While individual differences were found, these were not consistent with some participants adopting a conjunctive interpretation of such statements. Rather, it appears that students of lower cognitive ability are rather likely to assume that a conditional implies its converse, so that it means also if q then p. The results are discussed with reference to the suppositional theory of conditionals and our more general account of hypothetical thinking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1291-1297
Number of pages7
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


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