Reasoning and Conversation

Lance J. Rips*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Informal arguments take place when individuals exchange views on whether it is worthwhile to believe some assertion or take some action. Debates between friends or family members, classroom sparring about an idea, scientific exchanges about empirical results or theories, and critical discussions and responses in many fields can all be instances of arguments. This article describes the structure of these arguments in terms of the conversational moves that participants can make within them -for example, asking for a justification, giving a reason, offering an objection, or conceding a point. The central part of the article proposes a model for the way people determine to which of the argument's claims each participant is committed. According to the model, commitment is the result of rules defined over the sequence of conversational moves. A participant's commitment to claims that occur later in the argument has well-defined implications for commitment to claims that occurred earlier. Predictions from the model compare well with people's judgments of commitment over a range of argument types. The analysis of argument commitment also illuminates concepts such as burden of proof that are difficult to define within current reasoning theories that treat just a single side of an issue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)411-441
Number of pages31
JournalPsychological Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Reasoning and Conversation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this