When can we say 'if'?

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

40 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In this study, we focus on the conditions which permit people to assert a conditional statement of the form 'if p then q' with conversational relevance. In a broadly decision-theoretic approach, also drawing on hypothetical thinking theory [Evans, J. St. B. T. (2007). Hypothetical thinking: Dual processes in reasoning and judgement. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.], we predicted that conditional tips and promises would appear more useful and persuasive and be more likely to encourage an action p when (a) the conditional link from p to q was stronger, (b) the cost of the action p was lower and (c) the benefit of the consequence q was higher. Similarly, we predicted that conditional warnings and threats would be seen as more useful and persuasive and more likely to discourage an action p when (a) the conditional link from p to q was stronger, (b) the benefit of the action p was lower and (c) the cost of the consequence q was higher. All predictions were strongly confirmed, suggesting that such conditionals may best be asserted when they are of high relevance to the goals of the listener.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-116
Number of pages17
JournalCognition
Volume108
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2008
Externally publishedYes

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    Evans, J. S. B. T., Neilens, H., Handley, S. J., & Over, D. E. (2008). When can we say 'if'? Cognition, 108(1), 100-116. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2008.02.001