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date: 22 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Connectives and quantifiers are the building blocks of judgment and reasoning. Pragmatic factors affect their interpretation, which in turn affects inferences and decisions. To account for these effects, the psychology of judgment and reasoning imported theoretical frameworks from linguistic pragmatics. These frameworks focused on conversational efficiency but neglected politeness. Efficiency can explain a large range of interpretative effects (e.g., the scalarity of “some” and “or,” the narrow range of numerical translations for verbal uncertainty terms, the propagation of uncertainty from antecedent to consequent in conditional reasoning), but it does not explain the interpretation of connectives and quantifiers that apply to face-threatening content such as criticisms, requests, impositions, or bad news. When face-threatening content is involved, efficiency and politeness are antagonistic, and classic efficiency effects disappear for politeness reasons. Thus, politeness explains why people sometimes revert to the logical interpretation of “some” and “or,” why they assign greater probability to severe events, and why they sometimes cancel causal inferences.

Keywords: politeness, reasoning, pragmatics, connectives, quantifiers

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