Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology vol:58 issue:2 pages:106-112
Evidence from reasoning tasks shows that promises and threats both tend to receive biconditional interpretations. They also both display high speaker control. on the face of it, the only difference seems to be the positive or negative signing of the consequent. In a promise, the speaker tries to persuade the hearer to do something by holding out the prospect of a particular reward; in a threat, the speaker tries to refrain the hearer from doing something by holding out the prospect of a particular punishment. This paper investigates the respects in which conditional promises and threats differ further by means of an inference task. The credibility of the consequent was manipulated in order to examine whether the acceptability ratings of inferences based on promises and on threats would be equally affected. The results of the inference task and an analysis of the reasons people give for their answers suggest that the credibility of promises is less affected by the use of excessive consequents than the credibility of threats. In other words, promise remains debt, whereas threat is another matter.