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A counterfactual simulation model of causal judgments for physical events

Gerstenberg, T; Goodman, ND; Lagnado, DA; Tenenbaum, JB; (2021) A counterfactual simulation model of causal judgments for physical events. Psychological Review 10.1037/rev0000281. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

How do people make causal judgments about physical events? We introduce the counterfactual simulation model (CSM) which predicts causal judgments in physical settings by comparing what actually happened with what would have happened in relevant counterfactual situations. The CSM postulates different aspects of causation that capture the extent to which a cause made a difference to whether and how the outcome occurred, and whether the cause was sufficient and robust. We test the CSM in several experiments in which participants make causal judgments about dynamic collision events. A preliminary study establishes a very close quantitative mapping between causal and counterfactual judgments. Experiment 1 demonstrates that counterfactuals are necessary for explaining causal judgments. Participants' judgments differed dramatically between pairs of situations in which what actually happened was identical, but where what would have happened differed. Experiment 2 features multiple candidate causes and shows that participants' judgments are sensitive to different aspects of causation. The CSM provides a better fit to participants' judgments than a heuristic model which uses features based on what actually happened. We discuss how the CSM can be used to model the semantics of different causal verbs, how it captures related concepts such as physical support, and how its predictions extend beyond the physical domain. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

Type: Article
Title: A counterfactual simulation model of causal judgments for physical events
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1037/rev0000281
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/rev0000281
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
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/10134339
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