Temporal information and children's and adults' causal inferences

Thinking and Reasoning 15 (2):167-196 (2011)
Three experiments examined whether children and adults would use temporal information as a cue to the causal structure of a three-variable system, and also whether their judgements about the effects of interventions on the system would be affected by the temporal properties of the event sequence. Participants were shown a system in which two events B and C occurred either simultaneously (synchronous condition) or in a temporal sequence (sequential condition) following an initial event A. The causal judgements of adults and 6-7-year-olds differed between the conditions, but this was not the case for 4-year-olds' judgements. However, unlike those of adults, 6-7-year-olds' intervention judgements were not affected by condition, and causal and intervention judgements were not reliably consistent in this age group. The findings support the claim that temporal information provides an important cue to causal structure, at least in older children. However, they raise important issues about the relationship between causal and intervention judgements
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