Causal learning across domains

Five studies investigated (a) children’s ability to use the dependent and independent probabilities of events to make causal inferences and (b) the interaction between such inferences and domain-specific knowledge. In Experiment 1, preschoolers used patterns of dependence and independence to make accurate causal inferences in the domains of biology and psychology. Experiment 2 replicated the results in the domain of biology with a more complex pattern of conditional dependencies. In Experiment 3, children used evidence about patterns of dependence and independence to craft novel interventions across domains. In Experiments 4 and 5, children’s sensitivity to patterns of dependence was pitted against their domain-specific knowledge. Children used conditional probabilities to make accurate causal inferences even when asked to violate domain boundaries.
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