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James is polite and punctual (and useless): A Bayesian formalisation of faint praise

Harris, AJL; Corner, A; Hahn, U; (2013) James is polite and punctual (and useless): A Bayesian formalisation of faint praise. THINKING & REASONING , 19 (3) 414 - 429. 10.1080/13546783.2013.801367. Green open access

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Abstract

“Damned by faint praise” is the phenomenon whereby weak positive information leads to a negative change in belief. This seemingly conflicts with normative Bayesian predictions, which prescribe that positive information should only exert a positive change in belief. We argue that the negative belief change is due to an inference from critical missing evidence; that is, an implicit argument from ignorance. Such an inference is readily incorporated within a version of Bayes’ theorem incorporating the concept of epistemic closure. This reformalisation provides a general theoretical framework for the phenomenon that clearly outlines those conditions under which it should be observed, and its conceptual relationship with other argumentation phenomena.

Type: Article
Title: James is polite and punctual (and useless): A Bayesian formalisation of faint praise
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/13546783.2013.801367
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13546783.2013.801367
Additional information: © 2013 The Author. Published by Taylor & Francis This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The moral rights of the named author(s) have been asserted.
Keywords: Belief revision, Bayesian probability, Argumentation, Persuasion, Testimony, Pragmatics
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1419618
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