Putting ifs to work: Goal-based relevance in conditional directives


Conditional directives are used by speakers to instruct hearers which actions are to be taken should certain events occur. The authors demonstrate that conditional directives are distinct from indicative conditionals in which speakers predict what is likely to be observed should certain events occur. The 1st set of experiments shows that goal structure determines what information speakers will select to test whether conditional directives have been followed but that these selections do not reflect their interpretations of the deontic necessity and sufficiency of the conditional relation. The 2nd set of experiments shows that formulations of conditional directives differ in how clearly speakers consider them to express their situation-specific intentions and that hearers accurately perceive what speakers intend them to do as a result of these formulations. The authors' findings illustrate a form of social rationality common in everyday interaction, which broadens normative conceptions of conditionals.

Journal of Experimental Psychology: General
JF Bonnefon
JF Bonnefon
Behavioral Scientist