Asymmetry Effects in Generic and Quantified Generalizations

Proceedings of the 45Th Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society 45:1-6 (2023)
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Generic statements (‘Tigers have stripes’) are pervasive and early-emerging modes of generalization with a distinctive linguistic profile. Previous experimental work found that generics display a unique asymmetry between their acceptance conditions and the implications that are typically drawn from them. This paper presents evidence against the hypothesis that only generics display an asymmetry. Correcting for limitations of previous designs, we found a generalized asymmetry effect across generics, various kinds of explicitly quantified statements (‘most’, ‘some’, ‘typically’, ‘usually’), and variations in types of predicated properties (striking vs. neutral). We discuss implications of these results for our understanding of the source of asymmetry effects and whether and in which ways these effects might introduce biased beliefs into social networks.

Author Profiles

Eleonore Neufeld
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Guillermo Del Pinal
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Kevin Reuter
University of Zürich


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