Aspects of the meaning of if ... then for older preschoolers: Hypotheticality, entailment, and suppositional processes
The currently accepted notion that young children understand if ... then conjunctively in syllogistic tasks, and, concomitantly, that it does not denote entailment and hypotheticality for them, is challenged on conceptual grounds (because those latter two aspects of meaning cannot be assumed to always cooccur in development) and on methodological and empirical grounds in two experiments. Six-year-old preschoolers have been shown to reason biconditionally when syllogistic tasks are presented in discourse contexts and given meaningful clausal contents. Here we support these findings by showing that 6-year-olds demonstrate robust understanding of both the hypotheticality of if ... then and the entailment relation denoted by if ... then. First, in a task requiring judgments of semantic sensibleness-silliness for contradictions that were resolvable by a hypothetical construal of an if ... then frame, the majority of these children viewed if ... then as hypothetical. Second, when prompted to explain the consequent clauses of if ... then statements from a story, they frequently cited the antecedent clause as an explanation, and were able to support this response by describing a causal chain linking events in the statement; these data suggest that if ... then also denotes an entailment relation for young children. © 1992.
Jorgensen, Julia C. and Falmagne, Rachel Joffe, "Aspects of the meaning of if ... then for older preschoolers: Hypotheticality, entailment, and suppositional processes" (1992). Psychology. 812.