What makes us believe a conditional? The roles of covariation and causality

Thinking and Reasoning 13 (4):340 – 369 (2007)
Two experiments were conducted to investigate the roles of covariation and of causality in people's readiness to believe a conditional. The experiments used a probabilistic truth-table task (Oberauer & Wilhelm, 2003) in which people estimated the probability of a conditional given information about the frequency distribution of truth-table cases. For one group of people, belief in the conditional was determined by the conditional probability of the consequent, given the antecedent, whereas for another group it depended on the probability of the conjunction of antecedent and consequent. There was little evidence that covariation, expressed as the probabilistic contrast or as the pCI rule (White, 2003), influences belief in the conditional. The explicit presence of a causal link between antecedent and consequent in a context story had a weak positive effect on belief in a conditional when the frequency distribution of relevant cases was held constant.
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