Communicating Quantities A Psychological Perspective
Every day, in many situations, we use expressions which seem to provide us with only vague information. The weather forecaster tells us that "some showers are likely in Northern regions during the night", a statement which is vague with respect to number of showers, location, and time. Yet such messages are informative, and often it is not possible for the producer of the message to be more precise. A tutor tells his students that "only a few students fail their exams outright". This does not give a precise incidence. Yet it might be equally misleading to do so. For example, to say that twelve percent failed outright last year says nothing about other years, while to say an average of eight percent over the last five years says nothing about variability. We argue that a precise, numerical statement can be sometimes more misleading in reality than a vague statement.
Many researchers in psychology have attempted to capture the meaning of quantities by relating them to scales of quantity. Originally published in 1993, the book explores this idea in detail and shows with original studies how these expressions also serve to control attention and to convey information about the expectations held by those involved in the communication.
The book works towards a psychological theory of the meaning of quantifiers and similarly vague terms. New links are drawn between formal theories of quantification and psychological experimentation.
Preface. 1. Introduction 2. Quantifiers and Quantities 3. Scales and Negatives 4. Focus and Attention Control 5. Focus: Foundations and Extensions 6. Further Aspects of Inference 7. Towards a Psychological Account of Nonlogical Quantifiers. References. Author Index. Subject Index.
Reviews for the original edition:
I think this book will be of great interest to anyone concerned with the psychology of language and communication and will be very useful for final year students, postgraduates, teachers and researchers in the psychology of language, reasoning and related fields. – Dr Ken Gilhooly, University of Aberdeen, UK
Communicating Quantities would be an excellent contribution to third year courses in thinking or language. Academics in these areas will certainly want to read this book and I think that they would usually make it reading for their postgraduates. It is a detailed analysis of quantifier use that presents evidence and argument that extends understanding of usage well beyond what has previously been investigated. It extends the comparatively sterile logical and (what the authors refer to as) psychometric approaches to provide a more truly psychological understanding by focusing on the expectations and intentions of the speaker and listener. In summary, it is very readable and enjoyable and imparted very much useful information. – Dr Paul Pollard, University of Central Lancashire, UK