, Volume 190, Issue 1, pp 21-36

Belief ascription and the Ramsey test

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Abstract

In this paper, I analyse a finding by Riggs and colleagues that there is a close connection between people’s ability to reason with counterfactual conditionals and their capacity to attribute false beliefs to others. The result indicates that both processes may be governed by one cognitive mechanism, though false belief attribution seems to be slightly more cognitively demanding. Given that the common denominator for both processes is suggested to be a form of the Ramsey test, I investigate whether Stalnaker’s semantic theory of conditionals, which was inspired by the Ramsey test, may provide the basis for a psychologically plausible model of belief ascription. The analysis I propose will shed some new light on the developmental discrepancy between counterfactual reasoning and false belief ascription.