Cognitive shortcuts in causal inference

Philip M. Fernbach, Bob Rehder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The paper explores the idea that causality-based probability judgments are determined by two competing drives: one towards veridicality and one towards effort reduction. Participants were taught the causal structure of novel categories and asked to make predictive and diagnostic probability judgments about the features of category exemplars. We found that participants violated the predictions of a normative causal Bayesian network model because they ignored relevant variables (Experiments 1-3) and because they failed to integrate over hidden variables (Experiment 2). When the task was made easier by stating whether alternative causes were present or absent as opposed to uncertain, judgments approximated the normative predictions (Experiment 3). We conclude that augmenting the popular causal Bayes net computational framework with cognitive shortcuts that reduce processing demands can provide a more complete account of causal inference.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-88
Number of pages25
JournalArgument and Computation
Volume4
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2013

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Causal Inference
experiment
Experiment
Hidden Variables
Prediction
Experiments
Bayesian networks
Bayesian Model
Bayes
Causality
Bayesian Networks
causality
Network Model
Diagnostics
diagnostic
Integrate
cause
Alternatives
Processing
Judgment

Keywords

  • cognitive science<interdisciplinary links with computational argument
  • computational accounts of probabilistic argument
  • conditionals<interdisciplinary links with computational argument
  • explanation
  • mental models<interdisciplinary links with computational argument
  • rationality<interdisciplinary links with computational argument

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Mathematics
  • Linguistics and Language

Cite this

Cognitive shortcuts in causal inference. / Fernbach, Philip M.; Rehder, Bob.

In: Argument and Computation, Vol. 4, No. 1, 01.03.2013, p. 64-88.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Fernbach, Philip M. ; Rehder, Bob. / Cognitive shortcuts in causal inference. In: Argument and Computation. 2013 ; Vol. 4, No. 1. pp. 64-88.
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