Probabilistic negation: fine-grained preservation and distortion of truth in affirmative and negated statements

Abstract

Previous work has shown that a continuum of truth is reflected in real-time motor movement behavior (McKinstry, Dale & Spivey, 2008). In a mouse-tracking paradigm, participants responded yes or no to statements of varying truth-values such as "A thousand is more than a million" or "English is a language" as well as more ambiguous statements such as "Murder is sometimes justifiable". In the present study, we replicated these results along an 11-point continuum of truth-values, finding that the end-points of averaged mouse trajectories vary as a function of truth-value. In addition to this, negated versions of each stimulus were tested and revealed that truth-values for negated sentences follow more complex trajectories and do not preserve the original truth-value of the statement. The evidence found presents a problem for theories of negation that require a revision from the affirmative meaning. Alternative mechanisms for how truth is affected by negation are proposed.


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