Testimony, Credibility, and Explanatory Coherence
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- Thagard, P. Erkenntnis (2005) 63: 295. doi:10.1007/s10670-005-4004-2
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This paper develops a descriptive and normative account of how people respond to testimony. It postulates a default pathway in which people more or less automatically respond to a claim by accepting it, as long as the claim made is consistent with their beliefs and the source is credible. Otherwise, people enter a reflective pathway in which they evaluate the claim based on its explanatory coherence with everything else they believe. Computer simulations show how explanatory coherence can be maximized in real-life cases, taking into account all the relevant evidence including the credibility of whoever is making a claim. The explanatory-coherence account is more plausible both descriptively and normatively than a Bayesian account.