ERIC Number: EJ1073907
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015-Sep
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 85
Deontic Introduction: A Theory of Inference from Is to Ought
Elqayam, Shira; Thompson, Valerie A.; Wilkinson, Meredith R.; Evans, Jonathan St. B. T.; Over, David E.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, v41 n5 p1516-1532 Sep 2015
Humans have a unique ability to generate novel norms. Faced with the knowledge that there are hungry children in Somalia, we easily and naturally infer that we ought to donate to famine relief charities. Although a contentious and lively issue in metaethics, such inference from "is" to "ought" has not been systematically studied in the psychology of reasoning. We propose that deontic introduction is the result of a rich chain of pragmatic inference, most of it implicit; specifically, when an action is causally linked to a valenced goal, valence transfers to the action and bridges into a deontic conclusion. Participants in 5 experiments were presented with utility conditionals in which an action results in a benefit, a cost, or neutral outcome (e.g., "If Lisa buys the booklet, she will pass the exam") and asked to evaluate how strongly deontic conclusions (e.g., "Lisa should buy the booklet") follow from the premises. Findings show that the direction of the conclusions was determined by outcome valence (Experiments 1a and 1b), whereas their strength was determined by the strength of the causal link between action and outcome (Experiments 1, 2a, and 2b). We also found that deontic introduction is defeasible and can be suppressed by additional premises that interfere with any of the links in the implicit chain of inference (Experiments 2a, 2b, and 3). We propose that deontic introduction is a species-specific generative capacity whose function is to regulate future behavior.
Descriptors: Inferences, Abstract Reasoning, Logical Thinking, Experiments, Causal Models, Hypothesis Testing, Novelty (Stimulus Dimension), Evaluative Thinking, Validity, Foreign Countries
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Postsecondary Education; Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United Kingdom