Phil Johnson-Laird, Ruth Byrne and I recently published a paper in PNAS on how people base their verifications of assertions (such as Tom visited Florida or Wyoming) on non-logical truth values: while binary logics stipulate truth values of true and false, and nothing more, humans comprehend truth values such as true and it couldn’t have been false, and false but it could’ve been true. We developed new experimental paradigms for testing such truth values. Here’s the abstract of the paper:
Cognitive scientists treat verification as a computation in which descriptions that match the relevant situation are true, but otherwise false. The claim is controversial: The logician Gödel and the physicist Penrose have argued that human verifications are not computable. In contrast, the theory of mental models treats verification as computable, but the two truth values of standard logics, true and false, as insufficient. Three online experiments (n = 208) examined participants’ verifications of disjunctive assertions about a location of an individual or a journey, such as: ‘You arrived at Exeter or Perth’. The results showed that their verifications depended on observation of a match with one of the locations but also on the status of other locations (Experiment 1). Likewise, when they reached one destination and the alternative one was impossible, their use of the truth value: could be true and could be false increased (Experiment 2). And, when they reached one destination and the only alternative one was possible, they used the truth value, true and it couldn’t have been false, and when the alternative one was impossible, they used the truth value: true but it could have been false (Experiment 3). These truth values and those for falsity embody counterfactuals. We implemented a computer program that constructs models of disjunctions, represents possible destinations, and verifies the disjunctions using the truth values in our experiments. Whether an awareness of a verification’s outcome is computable remains an open question.