The psychological representation of modality

Mind and Language 33 (1):65-94 (2018)
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A series of recent studies have explored the impact of people's judgments regarding physical law, morality, and probability. Surprisingly, such studies indicate that these three apparently unrelated types of judgments often have precisely the same impact. We argue that these findings provide evidence for a more general hypothesis about the kind of cognition people use to think about possibilities. Specifically, we suggest that this aspect of people's cognition is best understood using an idea developed within work in the formal semantics tradition, namely the notion of modality. On the view we propose, people may have separate representations for physical, moral and probabilistic considerations, but they also integrate these various considerations into a unified representation of modality.

Author Profiles

Jonathan Phillips
Dartmouth College
Joshua Knobe
Yale University


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