Michael Waldmann and York Hagmayer

Estimating causal strength: The role of structural knowledge and processing effort


The strength of causal relations typically must be inferred on the basis of statistical relations between observable events. This article focuses on the problem that there are multiple ways of extracting statistical information from a set of events. In causal structures involving a potential cause, an effect and a third related event, the assumed causal role of this third event crucially determines whether it is appropriate to control for this event when making causal assessments between the potential cause and the effect. Three experiments show that prior assumptions about the causal roles of the learning events affect the way contingencies are assessed with otherwise identical learning input. However, prior assumptions about causal roles is only one factor influencing contingency estimation. The experiments also demonstrate that processing effort affects the way statistical information is processed. These findings provide further evidence for the interaction between bottom-up and top-down influences in the acquisition of causal knowledge. They show that, apart from covariation information or knowledge about mechanisms, abstract assumptions about causal structures also may affect the learning process. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

Accession Number: 2001-09231-002. PMID: 11672704 Partial author list: First Author & Affiliation: Waldmann, Michael R.; U Göttingen, Dept of Psychology, Göttingen, Germany. Release Date: 20011128. Publication Type: Journal (0100), Peer Reviewed Journal (0110). Format Covered: Print. Document Type: Journal Article. Language: English. Major Descriptor: Human Information Storage; Inductive Deductive Reasoning; Knowledge Level; Learning Strategies. Classification: Cognitive Processes (2340). Population: Human (10). Location: Germany. Methodology: Empirical Study. References Available: Y. Page Count: 32. Issue Publication Date: Nov, 2001.