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Meaning and framing: the semantic implications of psychological framing effects

Fisher, S. A. ORCID: (2022) Meaning and framing: the semantic implications of psychological framing effects. Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy, 65 (8). pp. 967-990. ISSN 1502-3923

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/0020174X.2020.1810115


I use the psychological phenomenon of ‘attribute framing’ as a case study for exploring philosophical conceptions of semantics and the semantics-pragmatics divide. Attribute frames are pairs of sentences that use contradictory expressions to predicate the same property of an individual or object. Despite their equivalence, pairs of attribute frames have been observed to induce systematic variability in hearers’ responses. One explanation of such framing effects appeals to the distinct ‘reference point information’ conveyed by alternative frames. Although this information is taken to be pragmatic, a live debate in the philosophy of language concerns the extent to which pragmatic information can really be held apart from semantics. Therefore, in this article I examine whether – and how – reference point information might be thought to intrude on the semantics of an attribute frame. I describe two ways in which the information might be considered broadly semantic, due to its being directly communicated or conventional. However, I argue that the framing data in fact support a narrower conception of semantics, and a semantics-pragmatics distinction that separates standing sentence meaning from enriched communicated meaning.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > Philosophy
ID Code:91118
Publisher:Taylor & Francis


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