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The Development of Spatial-Temporal, Probability, and Covariation Information to Infer Continuous Causal Processes

Dundar-Coecke, S; Tolmie, A; Schlottmann, A; (2021) The Development of Spatial-Temporal, Probability, and Covariation Information to Infer Continuous Causal Processes. Frontiers in Psychology , 12 , Article 525195. 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.525195. Green open access

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Abstract

This paper considers how 5- to 11-year-olds’ verbal reasoning about the causality underlying extended, dynamic natural processes links to various facets of their statistical thinking. Such continuous processes typically do not provide perceptually distinct causes and effect, and previous work suggests that spatial–temporal analysis, the ability to analyze spatial configurations that change over time, is a crucial predictor of reasoning about causal mechanism in such situations. Work in the Humean tradition to causality has long emphasized on the importance of statistical thinking for inferring causal links between distinct cause and effect events, but here we assess whether this is also viable for causal thinking about continuous processes. Controlling for verbal and non-verbal ability, two studies (N = 107; N = 124) administered a battery of covariation, probability, spatial–temporal, and causal measures. Results indicated that spatial–temporal analysis was the best predictor of causal thinking across both studies, but statistical thinking supported and informed spatial–temporal analysis: covariation assessment potentially assists with the identification of variables, while simple probability judgment potentially assists with thinking about unseen mechanisms. We conclude that the ability to find out patterns in data is even more widely important for causal analysis than commonly assumed, from childhood, having a role to play not just when causally linking already distinct events but also when analyzing the causal process underlying extended dynamic events without perceptually distinct components.

Type: Article
Title: The Development of Spatial-Temporal, Probability, and Covariation Information to Infer Continuous Causal Processes
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.525195
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.525195
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2021 Dündar-Coecke, Tolmie and Schlottmann. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Keywords: Social Sciences, Psychology, Multidisciplinary, Psychology, probability, covariation, temporal thinking, causation, causal processes, development
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10126728
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