Consequential conditionals: Invited and suppressed inferences from valued outcomes


Consequential conditionals are defined as ‘if P then Q’ statements, where P is an action, and Q a predicted outcome of this action, which is either desirable or undesirable to the agent. Experiment 1 shows that desirable (viz. undesirable) outcomes invite an inference to the truth (viz. falsity) of their antecedent. Experiment 2 shows that the more extreme the outcome is, the stronger the invited inference is. Experiment 3 shows that modus ponens from premises ‘If A then C, A’ can be suppressed with the introduction of a consequential conditional, ‘If C then Q,’ where Q is an undesirable outcome. Experiment 4 shows that the more undesirable Q is, the larger the suppression is. The authors discuss how these results can enrich current approaches of conditional inference on the basis of mental models, complementary necessary conditions, and conditional probabilities.

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition
JF Bonnefon
JF Bonnefon
Behavioral Scientist