Rationality, pragmatics, and sources

Collins, Peter J. (2017) Rationality, pragmatics, and sources. Doctoral thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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Abstract

This thesis contributes to the Great Rationality Debate in cognitive science. It introduces and explores a triangular scheme for understanding the relationship between rationality and two key abilities: pragmatics – roughly, inferring implicit intended utterance meanings – and learning from sources. The thesis argues that these three components – rationality, pragmatics, and sources – should be considered together: that each one informs the others. The thesis makes this case through literature review and theoretical work (principally, in Chapters 1 and 8) and through a series of empirical chapters focusing on different parts of the triangular scheme. Chapters 2 to 4 address the relationship between pragmatics and sources, focusing on how people change their beliefs when they read a conditional with a partially reliable source. The data bear on theories of the conditional and on the literature assessing people’s rationality with conditionals. Chapter 5 addresses the relationship between rationality and pragmatics, focusing on conditionals ‘in action’ in a framing effect known as goal framing. The data suggest a complex relationship between pragmatics and utilities, and support a new approach to goal framing. Chapter 6 addresses the relationship between rationality and sources, using normative Bayesian models to explore how people respond to simple claims from sources of different reliabilities. The data support a two-way relationship between claims and source information and, perhaps most strikingly, suggest that people readily treat sources as ‘anti-reliable’: as negatively correlated with the truth. Chapter 7 extends these experiments to test the theory that speakers can guard against reputational damage using hedging. The data do not support this theory, and raise questions about whether trust and vigilance against deception are prerequisites for pragmatics. Lastly, Chapter 8 synthesizes the results; argues for new ways of understanding the relationships between rationality, pragmatics, and sources; and relates the findings to emerging formal methods in psychology.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
School/Department: School of Science > Psychological Sciences
Depositing User: ORBIT Editor
Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2017 16:47
Last Modified: 17 Nov 2017 16:47
URI: http://bbktheses.da.ulcc.ac.uk/id/eprint/284

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