Politeness and conditional reasoning: Interpersonal cues to the indirect suppression of deductive inferences


A successful theory of conditional reasoning requires an account of how reasoners recognize the pragmatic function a conditional statement is meant to perform. Situations in which it is ambiguous whether a conditional statement was meant to add information or to correct a mistake are discussed in this article. This ambiguity has direct consequences on the way reasoners update their beliefs and derive conclusions. In an analysis of ambiguity from the perspective of politeness theory, the authors suggest that any contextual factor that increases the face threat of a correction will encourage reasoners to construe the ambiguous conditional as a correction. This construal will impact their beliefs about the piece of information that is ambiguously corrected, and their beliefs will affect the deductive conclusions they are willing to draw. This nested mediation structure was observed in 2 experiments. The first experiment manipulated the threat level of a correction through the portrayed personality of the person being corrected; the second experiment manipulated the affective distance between the corrector and the corrected.

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