A theory of utility conditionals: Paralogical reasoning from decision-theoretic leakage


Many ‘if p, then q’ conditionals have decision-theoretic features, such as antecedents or consequents that relate to the utility functions of various agents. These decision-theoretic features leak into reasoning processes, resulting in various paralogical conclusions. The theory of utility conditionals offers a unified account of the various forms that this phenomenon can take. The theory is built on 2 main components (1) a representational tool (the utility grid), which summarizes in compact form the decision-theoretic features of a conditional, and (2) a set of folk axioms of decision, which reflect reasoners??? beliefs about the way most agents make their decisions. Applying the folk axioms to the utility grid of a conditional allows for the systematic prediction of the paralogical conclusions invited by the utility grid’s decision-theoretic features. The theory of utility conditionals significantly extends the scope of current theories of conditional inference and moves reasoning research toward a greater integration with decision-making research.

Psychological Review
JF Bonnefon
JF Bonnefon
Behavioral Scientist