Epistemic verbs produce spatial models

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Description: Verbs such as ‘know’ and ‘think’ help people describe mental states, and reasoners without any training in logic can make epistemic inferences about mental states. For instance, verbs such as ‘know’ are factive, i.e., they describe true propositions, and the statement Aliyah knows that it’s cloudy licenses the inference that it’s cloudy. Logicians have accordingly developed epistemic logics capable of characterizing valid and invalid epistemic inferences based on operators that serve as analogs to verbs such as ‘know’ and ‘think’. Recent work suggests that no existing logical system can capture the inferences that naïve individuals tend to make. This paper describes a new theory of epistemic reasoning that operates on the assumption that reasoners represent epistemic relations as spatial models. The theory accords with recent theoretical advances, existing data, as well as two novel experiments that show how reasoners cope with nested epistemic verbs, e.g., Aliyah knows that Mo thinks it’s cloudy.

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