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The role of confidence in knowledge ascriptions: an evidence-seeking approach

Francis, K. B. and Beaman, C. P. (2023) The role of confidence in knowledge ascriptions: an evidence-seeking approach. Synthese, 202 (2). 30. ISSN 1573-0964

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/s11229-023-04236-w


Two methods have been used in the investigation of the stakes-sensitivity of knowledge as it occurs in ordinary language: (a) asking participants about the truth or acceptability of knowledge ascriptions and (b) asking participants how much evidence someone needs to gather before they know that something is the case. This second, "evidence-seeking", method has reliably found effects of stakes-sensitivity while the method of asking about knowledge ascriptions has not. Consistent with this pattern, in Francis, Beaman and Hansen (2019), we found evidence of scalar stakes effects using an evidence-seeking approach. Whilst we found this evidence across several cases using both negative (“don’t know”) and positive (“know”) polarities, there remain questions about the directness of the relationship between stakes and knowledge ascriptions; it is possible that stakes are affecting knowledge by affecting the confidence of the attributor. For example, Bach (2005) has argued that knowledge attributions do not track truth attributions but rather thresholds for doxastic confidence. To investigate the role of confidence in knowledge ascriptions, we use our existing paradigm (Francis et al., 2019) but include measures of both participant and protagonist confidence. As far as we are aware, this is the first empirical investigation of the role of confidence in stakes effects on knowledge that incorporates an evidence-seeking approach using several scenarios. Overall, across both positive (“know”) and negative (“don’t know”) polarity conditions, we find further evidence of a stakes effect on knowledge using an evidence-seeking paradigm. However, and importantly, we do not find evidence that changes in participant confidence partially or fully mediate the stakes effect on knowledge.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Centre for Cognition Research (CCR)
ID Code:112613


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