Utility templates for the interpretation of conditional statements

Jean François Bonnefon, Matthew Haigh, Andrew J. Stewart

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    People often use conditional statements to describe configurations of agents, actions and valued consequences. In this paper we propose the existence of utility templates, a special subset of these configurations that exert strong constraints on how people interpret conditionals. We conducted an initial completion survey which identified four potential utility templates. Four experiments then examined characteristic effects of these templates: When a described novel situation is close enough to a pre-existing template, people interpret ambiguous information associated with that situation or reinterpret current information in such a way that their understanding of the novel situation fits the template. A process explanation of these effects is considered which allows for the principled generation of other templates, and offers a possible reformulation of the findings within the framework of relevance theory. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)350-361
    Number of pages11
    JournalJournal of Memory and Language
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - May 2013


    • Conditional
    • Relevance
    • Schema
    • Utility


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