My kingdom for a horse: On incredible promises and unpersuasive warnings

Alejandro López-Rousseau*, Gil Diesendruck, Avi Benozio

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Promising and warning are speech acts that have to be credible to be persuasive. The question is: When does a promise become incredible and a warning unpersuasive? Whereas credibility has been researched from a social persuasion perspective, this article empirically answers that question, from an adaptive heuristics perspective. First, we present a satisficing algorithm that discriminates conditional promises, threats, advices, and warnings by pragmatic cues. Then, we discuss an alternative model of this algorithm that further accounts for the credibility of these conditionals by formal principles, and also adds two hypotheses: (1) Threats but not promises are more credible with proportionate than disproportionate consequences, and (2) Both advices and warnings are more persuasive with bilateral than unilateral consequences. Finally, we present two experiments and their follow-ups that, consistent with the pragmatic algorithm, provide evidence against both hypotheses.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)399-421
Number of pages23
JournalPragmatics and Cognition
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptive heuristics
  • Credibility
  • Persuasion
  • Pragmatic conditionals
  • Promises
  • Satisficing algorithms
  • Speech acts
  • Warnings


Dive into the research topics of 'My kingdom for a horse: On incredible promises and unpersuasive warnings'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this