Conceptual spaces and the strength of similarity-based arguments

Igor Douven, Shira Elqayam, Peter Gärdenfors, Patricia Mirabile

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Central to the conceptual spaces framework is the thought that concepts can be studied mathematically, by geometrical and topological means. Various applications of the framework have already been subjected to empirical testing, mostly with excellent results, demonstrating the framework's usefulness. So far untested is the suggestion that conceptual spaces may help explain certain inferences people are willing to make. The experiment reported in this paper focused on similarity-based arguments, testing the hypothesis that the strength of such arguments can be predicted from the structure of the conceptual space in which the items being reasoned about are represented. A secondary aim of the experiment concerned a recent inferentialist semantics for indicative conditionals, according to which the truth of a conditional requires the presence of a sufficiently strong inferential connection between its antecedent and consequent. To the extent that the strength of similarity-based inferences can be predicted from the geometry and topology of the relevant conceptual space, such spaces should help predict truth ratings of conditionals embodying a similarity-based inferential link. The results supported both hypotheses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104951
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Philosophy, Ethics and Religion

Free keywords

  • Argument strength
  • Concepts
  • Conceptual spaces
  • Conditionals
  • Inference
  • Inferentialism
  • Similarity


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