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Summary

Early work on ordinary causal judgments uncovered a tendency for causal judgments to be affected by normative considerations.  Much work has been devoted to understanding the nature of the influence (are normative considerations features of our competence or are they biases?), the types of normative considerations that affect causal judgments (e.g., moral norms, statistical norms) and the extent of their influence in causal cognition (do normative considerations influence causal learning or causal perception?). Other work has been aimed at investigating, for instance, whether we possess a single or multiple concepts of causation and whether we treat omissions as causes.

Key works

For work on the nature of normative considerations in causal judgment see Hitchcock & Knobe 2009, Alicke & Rose 2010 and Alicke et al 2011 ; For work on the types of normative considerations that affect causal cognition see Hitchcock & Knobe 2009 and Sytsma et al 2012; and for work on the extent of the influence of normative considerations in causal cognition see Danks et al 2013.  For work investigating whether we possess a single or multiple concepts of causation see Lombrozo 2010 and for work investigation whether we treat omissions as causes see Livengood & Machery 2007

Introductions For an introduction and overview see Rose & Danks 2012
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  1. Mark Alicke (2008). Blaming Badly. Journal of Cognition and Culture 8:179-186.
    Moral philosophers, legal theorists, and psychologists who study moral judgment are remarkably agreed in prescribing how to blame people. A blameworthy act occurs when an actor intentionally, negligently or recklessly causes foreseen, or foreseeable, harmful consequences without any compelling mitigating or extenuating circumstances. This simple formulation conveniently forestalls intricacies about how to construe concepts such as will, causation, foresight, and mitigation, but putting that aside for the moment, it seems fair to say that blame “professionals” share compatible conceptions of how (...)
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  2. Mark Alicke & David Rose (2012). Culpable Control and Deviant Causal Chains. Personality and Social Psychology Compass 6 (10):723-735.
    Actions that are intended to produce harmful consequences can fail to achieve their desired effects in numerous ways. We refer to action sequences in which harmful intentions are thwarted as deviant causal chains. The culpable control model of blame (CCM)is a useful tool for predicting and explaining the attributions that observers make of the actors whose harmful intentions go awry. In this paper, we describe six types of deviant causal chains; those in which: an actor’s attempt is obviated by the (...)
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  3. Mark Alicke & David Rose (2010). Culpable Control or Moral Concepts? Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33 (04):330-331.
    Knobe argues in his target article that asymmetries in intentionality judgments can be explained by the view that concepts such as intentionality are suffused with moral considerations. We believe that the “culpable control” model of blame can account both for Knobe's side effect findings and for findings that do not involve side effects.
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  4. Mark Alicke, David Rose & Dori Bloom (2011). Causation, Norm Violation, and Culpable Control. Journal of Philosophy 108 (12):670-696.
    Causation is one of philosophy's most venerable and thoroughly-analyzed concepts. However, the study of how ordinary people make causal judgments is a much more recent addition to the philosophical arsenal. One of the most prominent views of causal explanation, especially in the realm of harmful or potentially harmful behavior, is that unusual or counternormative events are accorded privileged status in ordinary causal explanations. This is a fundamental assumption in psychological theories of counterfactual reasoning, and has been transported to philosophy by (...)
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  5. Randolph Clarke, Joshua Shepherd, John Stigall, Robyn Repko Waller & Chris Zarpentine (forthcoming). Causation, Norms, and Omissions: A Study of Causal Judgments. Philosophical Psychology:1-15.
    Many philosophical theories of causation are egalitarian, rejecting a distinction between causes and mere causal conditions. We sought to determine the extent to which people's causal judgments discriminate, selecting as causes counternormal events—those that violate norms of some kind—while rejecting non-violators. We found significant selectivity of this sort. Moreover, priming that encouraged more egalitarian judgments had little effect on subjects. We also found that omissions are as likely as actions to be judged as causes, and that counternormative selectivity appears to (...)
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  6. Fiery Cushman, Joshua Knobe & Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (2008). Moral Appraisals Affect Doing/Allowing Judgments. Cognition 108 (2):353-380.
    An extensive body of research suggests that the distinction between doing and allowing plays a critical role in shaping moral appraisals. Here, we report evidence from a pair of experiments suggesting that the converse is also true: moral appraisals affect doing/allowing judgments. Specifically, morally bad behavior is more likely to be construed as actively ‘doing’ than as passively ‘allowing’. This finding adds to a growing list of folk concepts influenced by moral appraisal, including causation and intentional action. We therefore suggest (...)
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  7. David Danks, David Rose & Edouard Machery (2013). Demoralizing Causation. Philosophical Studies:1-27.
    There have recently been a number of strong claims that normative considerations, broadly construed, influence many philosophically important folk concepts and perhaps are even a constitutive component of various cognitive processes. Many such claims have been made about the influence of such factors on our folk notion of causation. In this paper, we argue that the strong claims found in the recent literature on causal cognition are overstated, as they are based on one narrow type of data about a particular (...)
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  8. Joseph Y. Halpern & Christopher Hitchcock (forthcoming). Graded Causation and Defaults. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axt050.
    Recent work in psychology and experimental philosophy has shown that judgments of actual causation are often influenced by consideration of defaults, typicality, and normality. A number of philosophers and computer scientists have also suggested that an appeal to such factors can help deal with problems facing existing accounts of actual causation. This article develops a flexible formal framework for incorporating defaults, typicality, and normality into an account of actual causation. The resulting account takes actual causation to be both graded and (...)
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  9. Christopher Hitchcock (2012). Portable Causal Dependence: A Tale of Consilience. Philosophy of Science 79 (5):942-951.
    This article describes research pursued by members of the McDonnell Collaborative on Causal Learning. A number of members independently converged on a similar idea: one of the central functions served by claims of actual causation is to highlight patterns of dependence that are highly portable into novel contexts. I describe in detail how this idea emerged in my own work and also in that of the psychologist Tania Lombrozo. In addition, I use the occasion to reflect on the nature of (...)
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  10. Christopher Hitchcock & Joshua Knobe (2009). Cause and Norm. Journal of Philosophy 106 (11):587-612.
    Much of the philosophical literature on causation has focused on the concept of actual causation, sometimes called token causation. In particular, it is this notion of actual causation that many philosophical theories of causation have attempted to capture.2 In this paper, we address the question: what purpose does this concept serve? As we shall see in the next section, one does not need this concept for purposes of prediction or rational deliberation. What then could the purpose be? We will argue (...)
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  11. Joshua Knobe (2010). Person as Scientist, Person as Moralist. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33 (4):315.
    It has often been suggested that people’s ordinary capacities for understanding the world make use of much the same methods one might find in a formal scientific investigation. A series of recent experimental results offer a challenge to this widely-held view, suggesting that people’s moral judgments can actually influence the intuitions they hold both in folk psychology and in causal cognition. The present target article distinguishes two basic approaches to explaining such effects. One approach would be to say that the (...)
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  12. Joshua Knobe (2009). Folk Judgments of Causation. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 40 (2):238-242.
    When scientists are trying to uncover the causes of a given outcome, they often make use of statistical information. Thus, if scientists wanted to know whether there was a causal relationship between attending philosophy lectures and learning philosophy, they might randomly assign students to either attend or not attend certain lectures and then check to see whether those who attended the lectures ended up learning more philosophy than those who did not.
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  13. Joshua Knobe & Ben Fraser (2008). Causal Judgment and Moral Judgment: Two Experiments. In Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (ed.), Moral Psychology. MIT Press.
    It has long been known that people’s causal judgments can have an impact on their moral judgments. To take a simple example, if people conclude that a behavior caused the death of ten innocent children, they will therefore be inclined to regard the behavior itself as morally wrong. So far, none of this should come as any surprise. But recent experimental work points to the existence of a second, and more surprising, aspect of the relationship between causal judgment and moral (...)
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  14. Jonathan Livengood & Edouard Machery (2007). The Folk Probably Don't Think What You Think They Think: Experiments on Causation by Absence. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 31 (1):107–127.
    Folk theories—untutored people’s (often implicit) theories about various features of the world—have been fashionable objects of inquiry in psychology for almost two decades now (e.g., Hirschfeld and Gelman 1994), and more recently they have been of interest in experimental philosophy (Nichols 2004). Folk theories of psy- chology, physics, biology, and ethics have all come under investigation. Folk meta- physics, however, has not been as extensively studied. That so little is known about folk metaphysics is unfortunate for (at least) two reasons. (...)
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  15. Jonathan Livengood, Justin Sytsma & David Rose, Following the FAD: Folk Attributions and Theories of Actual Causation.
    Using structural equations and directed graphs, Christopher Hitchcock (2007a) proposes a theory specifying the circumstances in which counterfactual dependence of one event e on another event c is necessary and sufficient for c to count as an actual cause of e. In this paper, we argue that Hitchcock is committed to a widely-endorsed folk attribution desideratum (FAD) for theories of actual causation. We then show experimentally that Hitchcock’s theory does not satisfy the FAD, and hence, it is in need of (...)
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  16. Tania Lombrozo (2010). Causal-Explanatory Pluralism: How Intentions, Functions, and Mechanisms Influence Causal Ascriptions. Cognitive Psychology 61 (4):303-332.
    Both philosophers and psychologists have argued for the existence of distinct kinds of explanations, including teleological explanations that cite functions or goals, and mechanistic explanations that cite causal mechanisms. Theories of causation, in contrast, have generally been unitary, with dominant theories focusing either on counterfactual dependence or on physical connections. This paper argues that both approaches to causation are psychologically real, with different modes of explanation promoting judgments more or less consistent with each approach. Two sets of experiments isolate the (...)
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  17. Peter Menzies (2010). Norms, Causes, and Alternative Possibilities. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33 (14):346-347.
    I agree with Knobe's claim in his “Person as Scientist, Person as Moralist” article that moral considerations are integral to the workings of people's competence in making causal judgments. However, I disagree with the particular explanation he gives of the way in which moral considerations influence causal judgments. I critically scrutinize his explanation and outline a better one.
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  18. David Rose & David Danks (2012). Causation: Empirical Trends and Future Directions. Philosophy Compass 7 (9):643-653.
    Empirical research has recently emerged as a key method for understanding the nature of causation, and our concept of causation. One thread of research aims to test intuitions about the nature of causation in a variety of classic cases. These experiments have principally been used to try to resolve certain debates within analytic philosophy, most notably that between proponents of transference and dependence views of causation. The other major thread of empirical research on our concept of causation has investigated the (...)
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  19. Craig Roxborough & Jill Cumby (2009). Folk Psychological Concepts: Causation. Philosophical Psychology 22 (2):205-213.
    Which factors influence the folk application of the concept of causation? Knobe has argued that causal judgments are primarily influenced by the moral valence of the behavior under consideration. Whereas Driver has pointed out that the data Knobe relies on can also be used to support the claim that it is the atypicality of the agent's behavior that influences our willingness to assign causality to that agent. While Knobe and Fraser have provided a further study to address the cogency of (...)
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  20. Justin Sytsma, Jonathan Livengood & David Rose (2012). Two Types of Typicality: Rethinking the Role of Statistical Typicality in Ordinary Causal Attributions. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 43 (4):814-820.
    Empirical work on the use of causal language by ordinary people indicates that their causal attributions tend to be sensitive not only to purely descriptive considerations, but also to broadly moral considerations. For example, ordinary causal attributions appear to be highly sensitive to whether a behavior is permissible or impermissible. Recently, however, a consensus view has emerged that situates the role of permissibility information within a broader framework: According to the consensus, ordinary causal attributions are sensitive to whether or not (...)
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  21. Jason Turner & Eddy A. Nahmias (2006). Are the Folk Agent-Causationists? Mind and Language 21 (5):597-609.
    Experimental examination of how the folk conceptualize certain philosophically loaded notions can provide information useful for philosophical theorizing. In this paper, we explore issues raised in Shaun Nichols' (2004) studies involving people's conception of free will, focusing on his claim that this conception fits best with the philosophical theory of agent-causation. We argue that his data do not support this conclusion, highlighting along the way certain considerations that ought to be taken into account when probing the folk conception of free (...)
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  22. Clare R. Walsh & Steven A. Sloman (2011). The Meaning of Cause and Prevent: The Role of Causal Mechanism. Mind and Language 26 (1):21-52.
    How do people understand questions about cause and prevent? Some theories propose that people affirm that A causes B if A's occurrence makes a difference to B's occurrence in one way or another. Other theories propose that A causes B if some quantity or symbol gets passed in some way from A to B. The aim of our studies is to compare these theories' ability to explain judgements of causation and prevention. We describe six experiments that compare judgements for causal (...)
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