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Is everyday causation deterministic or probabilistic?

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journal contribution
posted on 03.07.2015, 11:21 authored by Caren A. Frosch, P. N. Johnson-Laird
One view of causation is deterministic: A causes B means that whenever A occurs, B occurs. An alternative view is that causation is probabilistic: the assertion means that given A, the probability of B is greater than some criterion, such as the probability of B given not-A. Evidence about the induction of causal relations cannot readily decide between these alternative accounts, and so we examined how people refute causal assertions. In four experiments most participants judged that a single counterexample of A and not-B refuted assertions of the form, A causes B. And, as a deterministic theory based on mental models predicted, participants were more likely to request multiple refutations for assertions of the form, A enables B. Similarly, refutations of the form not-A and B were more frequent for enabling than causal assertions. Causation in daily life seems to be a deterministic concept.

Funding

This research was supported in part by a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship awarded to the first author by the Economic and Social Research Council held at the University of Reading (PTA-026-27-1688) and in part by a National Science Foundation grant, NSF grant SES 0844851, to the second author for the study of deductive and probabilistic reasoning.

History

Citation

Acta Psychologica, 137 (2011) 280–291

Author affiliation

/Organisation/COLLEGE OF MEDICINE, BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES AND PSYCHOLOGY/Themes/Neuroscience & Behaviour

Version

AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Published in

Acta Psychologica

Publisher

Elsevier

issn

0001-6918

eissn

1873-6297

Copyright date

2011

Available date

03/07/2015

Publisher version

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0001691811000308

Notes

PsychINFO code: 2340 Cognitive Processes

Language

en

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