Not by contingency: Some arguments about the fundamentals of human causal learning

Thinking and Reasoning 15 (2):129-166 (2011)
Abstract
The power PC theory postulates a normative procedure for making causal inferences from contingency information, and offers this as a descriptive model of human causal judgement. The inferential procedure requires a set of assumptions, which includes the assumption that the cause being judged is distributed independently of the set of other possible causes of the same outcome. It is argued that this assumption either never holds or can never be known to hold. It is also argued that conformity of judgements to the prescriptions of the model requires a sophisticated appreciation of methodological factors and acquired domain-specific knowledge of causes, and that the theory is disconfirmed by a finding that an objective contingency that equally supports two causal inferences results in only one of them actually being made. An alternative proposal based on the hypothesis that causal understanding originates with experiences of forces exerted while acting on objects is briefly sketched
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