The supposed competition between theories of human causal inference

Philosophical Psychology 18 (2):259 – 272 (2005)
Abstract
Newsome ((2003). The debate between current versions of covariation and mechanism approaches to causal inference. Philosophical Psychology, 16, 87-107.) recently published a critical review of psychological theories of human causal inference. In that review, he characterized covariation and mechanism theories, the two dominant theory types, as competing, and offered possible ways to integrate them. I argue that Newsome has misunderstood the theoretical landscape, and that covariation and mechanism theories do not directly conflict. Rather, they rely on distinct sets of reliable indicators of causation, and focus on different types of causation (type vs. token). There are certainly debates in the research field, but the theoretical landscape is not as fractured as Newsome suggests, and a potential unifying framework has already emerged using causal Bayes nets. Philosophical work on causal epistemology matters for psychologists, but not in the way Newsome suggests.
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