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Clinical Trial
, 109 (4), 646-78

Conditionals: A Theory of Meaning, Pragmatics, and Inference

Clinical Trial

Conditionals: A Theory of Meaning, Pragmatics, and Inference

P N Johnson-Laird et al. Psychol Rev.


The authors outline a theory of conditionals of the form If A then C and If A then possibly C. The 2 sorts of conditional have separate core meanings that refer to sets of possibilities. Knowledge, pragmatics, and semantics can modulate these meanings. Modulation can add information about temporal and other relations between antecedent and consequent. It can also prevent the construction of possibilities to yield 10 distinct sets of possibilities to which conditionals can refer. The mental representation of a conditional normally makes explicit only the possibilities in which its antecedent is true, yielding other possibilities implicitly. Reasoners tend to focus on the explicit possibilities. The theory predicts the major phenomena of understanding and reasoning with conditionals.

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