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Abstract

Investigated the effect of the verb on inferences in reasoning tasks with conditionals. Subjects were 60 pupils, both male and female, aged 17 to 18 years. Six verbs (buy, have, understand, ignore, hate, avoid) served as independent variables in conditional tasks consisting of two premises. The results which are statistically, highly significant, show an effect due to the verb depending upon the logical form of the task (2Î = 86.1, df= 30). indicate that certain semantic characteristics implicit in verbs determine the way in which a reasoning task is interpreted.

A second experiment investigated why verbs differ in this way. Interviews were carried out with subjects using the verbs ‘buy’ and ‘ignore’. It is suggested that implicit meanings acquired through processes of social attribution play an essential role in verbal reasoning. In the present case, such attributions concern the depositional and episodic character of verbs and appear to be responsible for the interpretation of the premises of our tasks. It is concluded that any logical model aiming at an adequate representation of language in reasoning must take these implicit social attributions into account.