Many of our decisions pertain to causal systems. Nevertheless, only recently has it been claimed that people use causal models when making judgments, decisions and predictions, and that causal Bayes nets allow us to formally describe these inferences. Experimental research has been limited to simple, artificial problems, which are unrepresentative of the complex dynamic systems we successfully deal with in everyday life. For instance, in social interactions, we can explain the actions of other's on the fly and (...) we can generalize from limited observations to predict future actions and their consequences. Our main argument is that none of these inferences (i.e., induction, generalization, explanation, and prediction) can be achieved without causalreasoning. As a case in point we use the popular television series desperate housewives and show how causal Bayes nets are able to explain the inferences made in social contexts. Crucially, causal Bayes nets also allow us to understand why we can infer so much from so little when making sense of a protagonist's behavior. (shrink)
In psychiatry, pharmacological drugs play an important experimental role in attempts to identify the neurobiological causes of mental disorders. Besides being developed in applied contexts as potential treatments for patients with mental disorders, pharmacological drugs play a crucial role in research contexts as experimental instruments that facilitate the formulation and revision of neurobiological theories of psychopathology. This paper examines the various epistemic functions that pharmacological drugs serve in the discovery, refinement, testing, and elaboration of neurobiological theories of mental disorders. I (...) articulate this thesis with reference to the history of antipsychotic drugs and the evolution of the dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia in the second half of the twentieth century. I argue that interventions with psychiatric patients through the medium of antipsychotic drugs provide researchers with information and evidence about the neurobiological causes of schizophrenia. This analysis highlights the importance of pharmacological drugs as research tools in the generation of psychiatric knowledge and the dynamic relationship between practical and theoretical contexts in psychiatry. (shrink)
Previous research suggests that children can infer causal relations from patterns of events. However, what appear to be cases of causal inference may simply reduce to children recognizing relevant associations among events, and responding based on those associations. To examine this claim, in Experiments 1 and 2, children were introduced to a “blicket detector”, a machine that lit up and played music when certain objects were placed upon it. Children observed patterns of contingency between objects and the machine’s (...) activation that required them to use indirect evidence to make causal inferences. Critically, associative models either made no predictions, or made incorrect predictions about these inferences. In general, children were able to make these inferences, but some developmental differences between 3- and 4- year-olds were found. We suggest that children’s causal inferences are not based on recognizing associations, but rather that children develop a mechanism for Bayesian structure learning. Experiment 3 explicitly tests a prediction of this account. Children were asked to make an inference about ambiguous data based on the base-rate of certain events occurring. Fouryear-olds, but not 3-year-olds were able to make this inference. (shrink)
Background: Causalreasoning as a way to make a diagnosis seems convincing. Modern medicine depends on the search for causes of disease and it seems fair to assert that such knowledge is employed in diagnosis. Causalreasoning as it has been presented neglects to some extent the conception of multifactorial disease causes. Goal: The purpose of this paper is to analyze aspects of causation relevant for discussing causalreasoning in a diagnostic context.
(2013). Hierarchical Bayesian models as formal models of causalreasoning. Argument & Computation: Vol. 4, Formal Models of Reasoning in Cognitive Psychology, pp. 36-45. doi: 10.1080/19462166.2012.700321.
There is now substantial agreement about the representational component of a normative theory of causalreasoning: Causal Bayes Nets. There is less agreement about a normative theory of causal discovery from data, either computationally or cognitively, and almost no work investigating how teaching the Causal Bayes Nets representational apparatus might help individuals faced with a causal learning task. Psychologists working to describe how naïve participants represent and learn causal structure from data have focused (...) primarily on learning from single trials under a variety of conditions. In contrast, one component of the normative theory focuses on learning from a sample drawn from a population under some experimental or observational study regime. Through a virtual Causality Lab that embodies the normative theory of causalreasoning and which allows us to record student behavior, we have begun to systematically explore how best to teach the normative theory. In this paper we explain the overall project and report on pilot studies which suggest that students can quickly be taught to (appear to) be quite rational. (shrink)
The main focus of this paper is the question as to what it is for an individual to think of her environment in terms of a concept of causation, or causal concepts, in contrast to some more primitive ways in which an individual might pick out or register what are in fact causal phenomena. I show how versions of this question arise in the context of two strands of work on causation, represented by Elizabeth Anscombe and Christopher Hitchcock, (...) respectively. I then describe a central type of reasoning that, I suggest, a subject has to be able to engage in, if we are to credit her with causal concepts. I also point out that this type of reasoning turns on the idea of a physical connection between cause and effect, as articulated in recent singularist approaches of causation. (shrink)
I argue that one central aspect of the epistemology of causation, the use of causes as evidence for their effects, is largely independent of the metaphysics of causation. In particular, I use the formalism of Bayesian causal graphs to factor the incremental evidential impact of a cause for its effect into a direct cause-to-effect component and a backtracking component. While the “backtracking” evidence that causes provide about earlier events often obscures things, once we our restrict attention to the cause-to-effect (...) component it is true to say promoting (inhibiting) causes raise (lower) the probabilities of their effects. This factoring assumes the same form whether causation is given an interventionist, counterfactual or probabilistic interpretation. Whether we think about causation in terms of interventions and causal graphs, counterfactuals and imaging functions, or probability raising against the background of causally homogenous partitions, if we describe the essential features of a situation correctly then the incremental evidence that a cause provides for its effect in virtue of being its cause will be the same. (shrink)
The authors examined cue competition effects in young children using the blicket detector paradigm, in which objects are placed either singly or in pairs on a novel machine and children must judge which objects have the causal power to make the machine work. Cue competition effects were found in a 5- to 6-year-old group but not in a 4-year-old group. Equivalent levels of forward and backward blocking were found in the former group. Children's counterfactual judgments were subsequently examined by (...) asking whether or not the machine would have gone off in the absence of I of 2 objects that had been placed on it as a pair. Cue competition effects were demonstrated only in 5- to 6-year-olds using this mode of assessing causalreasoning. (shrink)
Counterfactual theories of causation of the sort presented in Mackie, 1974, and Lewis, 1973 are a familiar part of the philosophical landscape. Such theories are typically advanced primarily as accounts of the metaphysics of causation. But they also raise empirical psychological issues concerning the processes and representations that underlie human causalreasoning. For example, do human subjects internally represent causal claims in terms of counterfactual judgments and when they engage in causalreasoning, does this involves (...)reasoning about counterfactual claims? This paper explores several such issues from a broadly interventionist perspective. (shrink)
In the artificial intelligence literature a promising approach to counterfactual reasoning is to interpret counterfactual conditionals based on causal models. Different logics of such causal counterfactuals have been developed with respect to different classes of causal models. In this paper I characterize the class of causal models that are Lewisian in the sense that they validate the principles in Lewis’s well-known logic of counterfactuals. I then develop a system sound and complete with respect to this (...) class. The resulting logic is the weakest logic of causal counterfactuals that respects Lewis’s principles, sits in between the logic developed by Galles and Pearl and the logic developed by Halpern, and stands to Galles and Pearl’s logic in the same fashion as Lewis’s stands to Stalnaker’s. (shrink)
Causal conditional reasoning means reasoning from a conditional statement that refers to causal content. We argue that data from causal conditional reasoning tasks tell us something not only about how people interpret conditionals, but also about how they interpret causal relations. In particular, three basic principles of people's causal understanding emerge from previous studies: the modal principle, the exhaustive principle, and the equivalence principle. Restricted to the four classic conditional inferences—Modus Ponens, Modus (...) Tollens, Denial of the Antecedent, and Affirmation of the Consequent—causal conditional reasoning data are only partially able to support these principles. We present three experiments that use concrete and abstract causal scenarios and combine inference tasks with a new type of task in which people reformulate a given causal situation. The results provide evidence for the proposed representational principles. Implications for theories of the na ve understanding of causality are discussed. (shrink)
There are two accounts describing causal conditional reasoning: the probabilistic and the mental models account. According to the probabilistic account, the tendency to accept a conclusion is related to the probability by which cause and effect covary. According to the mental models account, the tendency to accept a conclusion relates to the availability of counterexamples. These two accounts are brought together in a dual-process theory: It is argued that the probabilistic reasoning process can be considered as a (...) heuristic process whereas the mental models account can be seen as its analytic counterpart. Experiment 1 showed that the two processes differ on a temporal dimension: The variation in fast responses was best predicted by the variation in likelihood information, while the variation in slow responses was best predicted by variation in counterexample information. Experiments 2 and 3 validate the override principle: The likelihood conclusion can be overwritten when specific counterexamples are retrieved in time. In Experiment 2 both accounts were compared based on their difference in input. In Experiment 3 we used a verbal protocol analysis to validate the dual-process idea at the output level. The data of the three experiments provide converging support for framing the two reasoning accounts in a dual-process theory. (shrink)
This study examined the hypothesis that a key process in conditional reasoning with concrete premises involves on-line retrieval of information about potential alternate antecedents. Participants were asked to solve reasoning problems with causal conditional premises (If cause P then effect Q). These premises were inserted into short contexts. The availability of potential alternatives was varied from one context to another by adding statements that explicitly invalidated one or more of these alternatives (i.e., other causes that lead to (...) the effect Q). The invalidated alternatives differed in the degree of their semantic association to the consequent term (Q). The results show that the effect of invalidating one or more potential alternatives on the two uncertain logical forms, AC and DA, was largely determined by their relative associative strength. These results strongly support a model for conditional reasoning with causal premises that supposes that a key element in responding to the uncertain logical forms is on-line retrieval of at least one potential alternative antecedent. (shrink)
Young children spend a large portion of their time pretending about non-real situations. Why? We answer this question by using the framework of Bayesian causal models to argue that pretending and counterfactual reasoning engage the same component cognitive abilities: disengaging with current reality, making inferences about an alternative representation of reality, and keeping this representation separate from reality. In turn, according to causal models accounts, counterfactual reasoning is a crucial tool that children need to plan for (...) the future and learn about the world. Both planning with causal models and learning about them require the ability to create false premises and generate conclusions from these premises. We argue that pretending allows children to practice these important cognitive skills. We also consider the prevalence of unrealistic scenarios in children's play and explain how they can be useful in learning, despite appearances to the contrary. (shrink)
We propose that the pragmatic factors that mediate everyday deduction, such as alternative and disabling conditions (e.g. Cummins et al., 1991) and additional requirements (Byrne, 1989) exert their effects on specific inferences because of their perceived relevance to more general principles, which we term SuperPs. Support for this proposal was found first in two causal inference experiments, in which it was shown that specific inferences were mediated by factors that are relevant to a more general principle, while the same (...) inferences were unaffected by factors not relevant to the general principle. These results were extended to deontic inferences in two further experiments. Taken together, these findings show that unstated superordinate principles play a significant role in certain types of reasoning. Questions raised by the findings for the main theoretical approaches are discussed. (shrink)
According to a view widely held among philosophers of science, the notion of cause has no legitimate role to play in mature theories of physics. In this paper I investigate the role of what physicists themselves identify as causal principles in the derivation of dispersion relations. I argue that this case study constitutes a counterexample to the popular view and that causal principles can function as genuine factual constraints. IntroductionCausality and Dispersion RelationsNorton's SkepticismConclusion.
Recent work on the interpretation of counterfactual conditionals has paid much attention to the role of causal independencies. One influential idea from the theory of Causal Bayesian Networks is that counterfactual assumptions are made by intervention on variables, leaving all of their causal non-descendants unaffected. But intervention is not applicable across the board. For instance, backtracking counterfactuals, which involve reasoning from effects to causes, cannot proceed by intervention in the strict sense, for otherwise they would be (...) equivalent to their consequents. We discuss these and similar cases, focusing on two factors which play a role in determining whether and which causal parents of the manipulated variable are affected: Speakers' need for an explanation of the hypothesized state of affairs, and differences in the ‘resilience’ of beliefs that are independent of degrees of certainty. We describe the relevant theoretical notions in some detail and provide experimental evidence that these factors do indeed affect speakers' interpretation of counterfactuals. (shrink)
In this paper I examine several neo-Russellian arguments for the claim that there is no room for an asymmetric notion of cause in mature physical theories. I argue that these arguments are unsuccessful and discuss an example where an asymmetric causal condition plays an important role in the derivation of a physical law.
This paper presents a formalism that combines useful properties of both logic and probabilities. Like logic, the formalism admits qualitative sentences and provides symbolic machinery for deriving deductively closed beliefs and, like probability, it permits us to express if-then rules with different levels of firmness and to retract beliefs in response to changing observations. Rules are interpreted as order-of-magnitude approximations of conditional probabilities which impose constraints over the rankings of worlds. Inferences are supported by a unique priority ordering on rules (...) which is syntactically derived from the knowledge base. This ordering accounts for rule interactions, respects specificity considerations and facilitates the construction of coherent states of beliefs. Practical algorithms are developed and analyzed for testing consistency, computing rule ordering, and answering queries. Imprecise observations are incorporated using qualitative versions of Jeffrey's rule and Bayesian updating, with the result that coherent belief revision is embodied naturally and tractably. Finally, causal rules are interpreted as imposing Markovian conditions that further constrain world rankings to reflect the modularity of causal organizations. These constraints are shown to facilitate reasoning about causal projections, explanations, actions and change. (shrink)
The essential precondition of implementing interventionist techniques of causalreasoning is that particular variables are identified as so-called intervention variables. While the pertinent literature standardly brackets the question how this can be accomplished in concrete contexts of causal discovery, the first part of this paper shows that the interventionist nature of variables cannot, in principle, be established based only on an interventionist notion of causation. The second part then demonstrates that standard observational methods that draw on Bayesian (...) networks identify intervention variables only if they also answer the questions that can be answered by interventionist techniques—which are thus rendered dispensable. The paper concludes by suggesting a way of identifying intervention variables that allows for exploiting the whole inferential potential of interventionist techniques. (shrink)
Recent advances in causalreasoning have given rise to a computational model that emulates the process by which humans generate, evaluate, and distinguish counterfactual sentences. Contrasted with the “possible worlds” account of counterfactuals, this “structural” model enjoys the advantages of representational economy, algorithmic simplicity, and conceptual clarity. This introduction traces the emergence of the structural model and gives a panoramic view of several applications where counterfactual reasoning has benefited problem areas in the empirical sciences.
The first part of this paper shows that Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA)--also in its most recent forms as presented in Ragin (2000, 2008)--, does not correctly analyze data generated by causal chains, which, after all, are very common among causal processes in the social sciences. The incorrect modeling of data originating from chains essentially stems from QCA’s reliance on Quine-McCluskey optimization to eliminate redundancies from sufficient and necessary conditions. Baumgartner (2009a,b) has introduced a Boolean methodology, termed Coincidence Analysis (...) (CNA), that is related to QCA, yet, contrary to the latter, does not eliminate redundancies by means of Quine-McCluskey optimization. The second part of the paper applies CNA to chain-generated data. It will turn out that CNA successfully detects causal chains in small-N data. (shrink)
The application of the formal framework of causal Bayesian Networks to children’s causal learning provides the motivation to examine the link between judgments about the causal structure of a system, and the ability to make inferences about interventions on components of the system. Three experiments examined whether children are able to make correct inferences about interventions on different causal structures. The first two experiments examined whether children’s causal structure and intervention judgments were consistent with one (...) another. In Experiment 1, children aged between 4 and 8 years made causal structure judgments on a three-component causal system followed by counterfactual intervention judgments. In Experiment 2, children’s causal structure judgments were followed by intervention judgments phrased as future hypotheticals. In Experiment 3, we explicitly told children what the correct causal structure was and asked them to make intervention judgments. The results of the three experiments suggest that the representations that support causal structure judgments do not easily support simple judgments about interventions in children. We discuss our findings in light of strong interventionist claims that the two types of judgments should be closely linked. (shrink)
Two experiments examined the impact of causal relations between features on categorization in 5- to 6-year-old children and adults. Participants learned artificial categories containing instances with causally related features and noncausal features. They then selected the most likely category member from a series of novel test pairs. Classification patterns and logistic regression were used to diagnose the presence of independent effects of causal coherence, causal status, and relational centrality. Adult classification was driven primarily by coherence when (...) class='Hi'>causal links were deterministic (Experiment 1) but showed additional influences of causal status when links were probabilistic (Experiment 2). Children’s classification was based primarily on causal coherence in both cases. There was no effect of relational centrality in either age group. These results suggest that the generative model (Rehder, 2003a) provides a good account of causal categorization in children as well as adults. (shrink)
What cognitive abilities underpin the use of tools, and how are tools and their properties represented or understood by tool-users? Does the study of tool use provide us with a unique or distinctive source of information about the causal cognition of tool-users? -/- Tool use is a topic of major interest to all those interested in animal cognition, because it implies that the animal has knowledge of the relationship between objects and their effects. There are countless examples of animals (...) developing tools to achieve some goal-chimps sharpening sticks to use as spears, bonobos using sticks to fish for termites, and New Caledonian crows developing complex tools to extracts insects from logs. Studies of tool use have been used to examine an exceptionally wide range of aspects of cognition, such as planning, problem-solving and insight, naive physics, social relationship between action and perception. A key debate in recent research on animal cognition concerns the level of cognitive sophistication that is implied by animal tool use, and developmental psychologists have been addressing related questions regarding the processes through which children acquire the ability to use tools. In neuropsychology, patterns of impairments in tool use due to brain damage, and studies of neural changes associated with tool use, have also led to debates about the different types of cognitive abilities that might underpin tool use, and about how tool use may change the way space or the body is represented. -/- Tool Use and Causal Cognition provides a new interdisciplinary perspective on these issues with contributions from leading psychologists studying tool use and philosophers providing new analyses of the nature of causal understanding A ground-breaking volume which covers several disciplines, this volume will be of interest to psychologists, including animal researchers and developmental psychologists as well as philosophers, and neuroscientists. (shrink)
It is argued that causal understanding originates in experiences of acting on objects. Such experiences have consistent features that can be used as clues to causal identification and judgment. These are singular clues, meaning that they can be detected in single instances. A catalog of 14 singular clues is proposed. The clues function as heuristics for generating causal judgments under uncertainty and are a pervasive source of bias in causal judgment. More sophisticated clues such as mechanism (...) clues and repeated interventions are derived from the 14. Research on the use of empirical information and conditional probabilities to identify causes has used scenarios in which several of the clues are present, and the use of empirical association information for causal judgment depends on the presence of singular clues. It is the singular clues and their origin that are basic to causal understanding, not multiple instance clues such as empirical association, contingency, and conditional probabilities. (shrink)
Bayes nets are formal representations of causal systems that many psychologists have claimed as plausible mental representations. One purported advantage of Bayes nets is that they may provide a theory of counterfactual conditionals, such as If Calvin had been at the party, Miriam would have left early. This article compares two proposed Bayes net theories as models of people's understanding of counterfactuals. Experiments 1-3 show that neither theory makes correct predictions about backtracking counterfactuals (in which the event of the (...) if-clause occurs after the event of the then-clause), and Experiment 4 shows the same is true of forward counterfactuals. An amended version of one of the approaches, however, can provide a more accurate account of these data. (shrink)
We investigated the understanding of causal systems categories—categories defined by common causal structure rather than by common domain content—among college students. We asked students who were either novices or experts in the physical sciences to sort descriptions of real-world phenomena that varied in their causal structure (e.g., negative feedback vs. causal chain) and in their content domain (e.g., economics vs. biology). Our hypothesis was that there would be a shift from domain-based sorting to causal sorting (...) with increasing expertise in the relevant domains. This prediction was borne out: The novice groups sorted primarily by domain and the expert group sorted by causal category. These results suggest that science training facilitates insight about causal structures. (shrink)
This paper proposes a causal-dispositional account of rule-following as it occurs in reasoning and intentional agency. It defends this view against Kripke’s (1982) objection to dispositional accounts of rule-following, and it proposes a solution to the problem of deviant causal chains. In the first part, I will outline the causal-dispositional approach. In the second part, I will follow Martin and Heil’s (1998) realist response to Kripke’s challenge. I will propose an account that distinguishes between two kinds (...) of rule-conformity and two kinds of rule-following, and I will defend the realist approach against two challenges that have recently been raised by Handfield and Bird (2008). In the third part, I will turn to the problem of deviant causal chains, and I will propose a new solution that is partly based on the realist account of rule-following. (shrink)
This paper defends my claim in earlier work that certain non-causal conditions are sufficient for the truth of some reasons explanations of actions, against the critique of this claim given by Randolph Clarke in his book, Libertarian Accounts of Free Will.
Resurgent interest in both mechanistic and counterfactual theories of explanation has led to a fair amount of discussion regarding the relative merits of these two approaches. James Woodward is currently the pre-eminent counterfactual theorist, and he criticizes the mechanists on the following grounds: Unless mechanists about explanation invoke counterfactuals, they cannot make sense of claims about causal interactions between mechanism parts or of causal explanations put forward absent knowledge of productive mechanisms. He claims that these shortfalls can be (...) offset if mechanists will just borrow key tenets of his counterfactual theory of causal claims. What mechanists must bear in mind, however, is that by pursuing this course they risk both the assimilation of the mechanistic theories of explanation into Woodward’s own favored counterfactual theory, and they risk the marginalization of mechanistic explanations to a proper subset of all explanations. An outcome more favorable to mechanists might be had by pursuing an actualist-mechanist theory of the contents of causal claims. While it may not seem obvious at first blush that such an approach is workable, even in principle, recent empirical research into causal perception, causal belief, and mechanical reasoning provides some grounds for optimism. (shrink)