Similarity, plausibility, and judgments of probability

Edward E. Smith, Eldar Shafir, Daniel Osherson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Judging the strength of an argument may underlie many reasoning and decision-making tasks. In this article, we focus on "category-based" arguments, in which the premises and conclusion are of the form All members of C have property P, where C is a natural category. An example is "Dobermanns have sesamoid bones. Therefore, German shepherds have sesamoid bones." The strength of such an argument is reflected in the judged probability that the conclusion is true given that the premises are true. The processes that mediate such probability judgments depend on whether the predicate is "blank" - an unfamiliar property that does not enter the reasoning process (e.g., "have sesamoid bones") - or "non-blank" - a relatively familiar property that is easier to reason from (e.g., "can bite through wire"). With blank predicates, probability judgments are based on similarity relations between the premise and conclusion categories. With non-blank predicates, probability judgements are based on both similarity relations and the plausibility of premises and conclusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-96
Number of pages30
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 1993

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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