Causal scope and causal strength - The number of potential effects of a cause influences causal strength estimates

Causal scope and causal strength - The number of potential effects of a cause influences causal strength estimates

Abstract

Causal scope, the number of different effects a cause can produce, is a salient feature of causes. In the present research, we address the question whether reasoners use causal scope as a diagnostic cue to infer the strengths of individual causal links. In three experiments, we manipulated the number of effects of a cause, and asked subjects to assess the causal strengths of single causal links. The results document a clear influence of causal scope on perceived link strength. In particular, subjects tended to display a ``dilution” effect. They perceived a causal link to be weaker if that link belonged to a cause that is capable of producing additional effects. This dilution effect can be explained by a dispositional notion of causality according to which a cause possesses a certain amount of causal power or capacity that it distributes cross its different causal pathways.

Publication
In S. Denison., M. Mack, Y. Xu, & B.C. Armstrong (Eds.), Proceedings of the 42th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 3426 - 3432). Austin, TX - Cognitive Science Society
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Simon Stephan
Research Scientist in the field of Cognitive Science at the

My research interest is computational cognitive science. I’m particularly active in the field of causal learning and causal reasoning.