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Contiguity and Covariation in Human Causal Inference

Buehner, Marc J. 2005. Contiguity and Covariation in Human Causal Inference. Learning and Behavior 33 (2) , pp. 230-238. 10.3758/BF03196065

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Nearly every theory of causal induction assumes that the existence and strength of causal relations needs to be inferred from observational data in the form of covariations. The last few decades have seen much controversy over exactly how covariations license causal conjectures. One consequence of this debate is that causal induction research has taken for granted that covariation information is readily available to reasoners. This perspective is reflected in typical experimental designs, which either employ covariation information in summary format or present participants with clearly marked discrete learning trials. I argue that such experimental designs oversimplify the problem of causal induction. Real-world contexts rarely are structured so neatly; rather, the decision about whether a cause and effect co-occurred on a given occasion constitutes a key element of the inductive process. This article will review how the event-parsing aspect of causal induction has been and could be addressed in associative learning and causal power theories.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Publisher: Springer
ISSN: 0090-4996
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 04:08

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