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Accounting for occurrences: An explanation for some novel tendencies in causal judgment from contingency information

White, Peter Anthony 2009. Accounting for occurrences: An explanation for some novel tendencies in causal judgment from contingency information. Memory & Cognition 37 (4) , pp. 500-513. 10.3758/MC.37.4.500

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Abstract

Contingency information is information about empirical associations between possible causes and outcomes. In the present research, it is shown that, under some circumstances, there is a tendency for negative contingencies to lead to positive causal judgments and for positive contingencies to lead to negative causal judgments. If there is a high proportion of instances in which a candidate cause (CC) being judged is present, these tendencies are predicted by weighted averaging models of causal judgment. If the proportion of such instances is low, the predictions of weighted averaging models break down. It is argued that one of the main aims of causal judgment is to account for occurrences of the outcome. Thus, a CC is not given a high causal judgment if there are few or no occurrences of it, regardless of the objective contingency. This argument predicts that, if there is a low proportion of instances in which a CC is present, causal judgments are determined mainly by the number of Cell A instances (i.e., CC present, outcome occurs), and that this explains why weighted averaging models fail to predict judgmental tendencies under these circumstances. Experimental results support this argument.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Publisher: Springer Verlag
ISSN: 0090-502X
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 04:02
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/31198

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