Reasoning with Polysemes: When Default Inferences Beat Contextual Information.

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How, and how strongly, do default comprehension inferences shape verbal reasoning? When do they lead to fallacies? We address these questions for reasoning with polysemous verbs (verbs with distinct, but related senses) and ask when their use leads to fallacies of equivocation. The ‘linguistic salience bias hypothesis’ specifies conditions where subordinate uses of unbalanced polysemes trigger defeasible default inferences that are supported only by the dominant sense but influence further cognition, regardless. But does this happen even where the verb is preceded by disambiguating context that invites subordinate interpretations from the start? We present three experimental-philosophy studies that address this question: We use the psycholinguistic cancellation paradigm and fixation time measurements to examine inferences from polysemous appearance verbs. We find that default inferences can beat even preceding contextual information. Beyond their psycho-linguistic interest, findings have important philosophical consequences.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society
ISBN (Electronic)1069-7977
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2024

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