Reasoning with Exceptive ConditionalsThe case of ‘Except If’

  1. O. Espino 1
  2. I. Sánchez-Curbelo 1
  3. G.M. Ramírez 1
  1. 1 Universidad de La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain
Psicológica: Revista de metodología y psicología experimental

ISSN: 1576-8597

Year of publication: 2015

Volume: 36

Issue: 1

Pages: 99-122

Type: Article

More publications in: Psicológica: Revista de metodología y psicología experimental


In this paper we outline a mental model theory (Johnson-Laird & Byrne, 1991, 2002) of reasoning about the conditional except if. We report two experiments showing that the exceptive conditional except if exerted certain forms of semantic modulation and determined the inferences that individuals draw in an inference task (Experiment 1) and in a truth table task (Experiment 2). In Experiment 1 we found that there were no reliable differences between the percentage of modus ponens and modus tollens with the conditional except if but that the differences were reliable with the conditional if not, then. In Experiment 2, participants selected the possibilities ‘A & not-B’ and ‘not-A & B’ more frequently than the possibilities ‘A & B’ and ‘not-A & not-B’ with the conditional ‘B except if A’, but they selected the possibility ‘not-A & B’ more frequently than other possibilities (‘A & not-B’, ‘A & B’, ‘not-A & not-B’) with the conditionals ‘B if not-A’ and ‘if not-A, B’. The implications of these results are discussed in the context of recent psychological and linguistic theories in respect of the meaning of except if

Bibliographic References

  • Barrouillet, P., Grosset N., & Lecas, J.F. (2000). Conditional reasoning by mental models: Chronometric and developmental evidence. Cognition, 75, 237-266.
  • Barrouillet, P., Gauffroy, C., & Lecas, J.F. (2008). Mental Models and the Suppositional Account of Conditionals. Psychological Review, 115, 760-771.
  • Braine, M. D. S. & O’ Brien, D. P. (1998). Mental Logic. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Byrne, R. M. J. (2005). The Rational Imagination: How People Create Counterfactual Alternatives to Reality. Cambridge, M.A.: MIT Press.
  • Byrne, R. M. J. (2007). Précis of the rational imagination: how people create alternatives to reality. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 30, 439-480.
  • Carriedo, N., García-Madruga, J., Moreno-Ríos, S. & Gutiérrez, F. (1999). How does content affect 'unless' conditional reasoning? Proceedings of the European Conference on Cognitive Science (pp. 271-277). London: Psychological Press.
  • Dancygier, B. (1998). Conditionals and prediction: Time, knowledge and causation in conditional constructions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Dancygier, B. (2002). Mental space embeddings, counterfactuality and the use of unless. English language and linguistics, 6, 367-37.
  • Dancygier, B. & Sweetser, E. (2005). Mental spaces in grammar: conditional construction. Cambridge University Press.
  • Declerck, R. & Reed, S. (2000). The semantics and pragmatics of unless. English Language and Linguistics, 4, 201-241.
  • Espino, O., & Hernández, E. (2009). Efectos de direccionalidad en condicionales. Psicológica, 30(1), 41-57.
  • Espino, O., Sánchez-Curbelo, I., García, O., & Estupiñan, S. (2013). Priming effect on the exceptive conditional ‘except if’. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 25 (8), 982-988.
  • Evans, J. St. B. T. (1977). Linguistic factors in reasoning. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 29(2), 297-306.
  • Evans, J. St. B. T. (1993). The mental model theory of conditional reasoning: Critical appraisal and revision. Cognition, 48(1), 1-20.
  • Evans, J. St. B. T. (2007). Hypothetical thinking: dual processes in reasoning and judgement. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.
  • Evans, J. St. B. T., & Beck, M. A. (1981). Directionality and temporal factors in conditional reasoning. Current Psychological Research, 1(2), 111-120.
  • Evans J.Bt.B.T. & Over, D. E. (2004). If. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Evans, J. St. B. T., Over, D. E., & Handley, S. J. (2005). Suppositional, extensionality and conditionals: a critique of the Mental Model Theory of Johnson-Laird and Byrne (2002). Psychological Review, 112 (4), 1040-1052.
  • Fiddick, L., Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (2000). No interpretation without representation: The role of domain-specific representations and inferences in the Wason selection task. Cognition, 75, 1–79.
  • Fillenbaum, S. (1986). The use of conditionals in inducements and deterrents. In E. C. Traugott, A, ter Meulen, J.S. Reilly, & C.A. Ferguson (Eds). On conditionals (pp 179-195). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • García-Madruga, J.A., Carriedo, N., Moreno-Ríos, S. Gutiérrez, F. & Schaeken, W. (2008). Unless Reasoning. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 11, 386-399.
  • García-Madruga, J.A., Carriedo, N. & Moreno-Ríos, S. (2011). The semantics of 'unless' conditionals: evidence from 'unless' and disjunctive inferences. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 14, 393-403.
  • García-Madruga, J. A., Gutiérrez, F., Carriedo, N., Moreno-Ríos, S. & Johnson-Laird, P. N. (2002). Mental models in deductive reasoning. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 5, 125-140.
  • García-Madruga, J.A., Moreno-Ríos, S., Quelhas, A.C. & Juhos, C. (2009). Reasoning with Unless Counterfactual Conditionals. Psicológica, 30, 215-232.
  • Geis, M.L. (1973). If and unless. In B.B. Kachu, R.B. Lees, Y. Malkiel, A. Pietrangeli, & S. Saporta (Eds). Issues in linguistics (pp. 231-253). Urbana Chicago: University of Illinois Press.
  • Gigerenzer, G., & Hug, K. (1992). Domain specific reasoning: Social contracts, cheating, and perspective change. Cognition, 42, 127–171.
  • Gómez-Veiga, I., García-Madruga, J.A., & Moreno-Ríos, S. (2012). Unless conditionals: New evidences from priming. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 24 (8), 1002–1009.
  • Grosset, N., & Barrouillet, P. (2003). On the nature of mental models of conditionals: The case of If, If then, and Only if. Thinking and Reasoning, 9, 289-384.
  • Holyoak, K.J., & Cheng, P. (1995) Pragmatic reasoning with a point of view: A response. Thinking and Reasoning, 1, 289-313.
  • Johnson-Laird, P.N. (2006). How we reason. USA: Oxford University Press.
  • Johnson-Laird, P. N., & Byrne, R. M. J. (1989). Only reasoning. Journal of Memory and Language, 28, 313-330.
  • Johnson-Laird, P. N., & Byrne, R. M. J. (1991). Deduction. Hove, UK: Erlbaum.
  • Johnson-Laird, P. N., & Byrne, R. M. J. (2002). Conditionals: a theory of meaning, inference, and pragmatics. Psychological Review, 109, 646-678.
  • Johnson-Laird, P.N., Byrne, R., & Schaeken, W. (1992). Propositional reasoning by model. Psychological Review, 99, 418-439.
  • Lycan, W. G. (2001). Real conditionals. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Montolío, E. (1999). Las construcciones condicionales. In I. Bosque & V. Demonte (Eds.). Gramática Descriptiva de la lengua española. Madrid: RAE - Espasa.
  • Montolío, E. (2000). On affirmative and negative complex conditional connectives. In E. Couper-Kuhlen & B. Kortmenn (Eds.). Cause, condition, concession, contrast. New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Quelhas, C., Johnson-Laird P., & Juhos (2010). The modulation of conditional assertions and its effects on reasoning. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 1-24.
  • Quine, W. V. (1972). Methods of logic (3rd ed.). New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
  • Reichenback, H. (1947). Elements of symbolic logic. New York: Free Press.
  • Rips, L. J. (1994). The psychology of proof: Deductive reasoning in human thinking. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, Bradford Books.
  • Schaeken, García-Madruga, & d’Ydewalle (1997). Unless Reasoning. Unpublished manuscript.
  • Sloutsky, V. M., & Goldvarg, Y. (2004). Mental representation of logical connectives. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 57 A (4), 636-665.
  • Traugott, E.C. (1977). Unless and But conditionals: A historical perspective. In A. Athanasiadou and R. Dirven (Eds.). On conditionals again. Amsterdam: John Benjamin, pp. 145-167.
  • Vergauwe, E., Gauffroy, C., Morsanyi, K., Dagry, I., & Barrouillet, P. (2013). Chronometric evidence for the dual-process mental model theory of conditional. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 25, 174-182.
  • Wright, P., & Hull, A. J. (1986). Answering questions about negative conditionals. Journal of Memory and Language, 25, 691-709.