Causal Learning: Psychology, Philosophy, and Computation by Alison Gopnik, Laura Schulz

By Alison Gopnik, Laura Schulz

Figuring out causal constitution is a crucial activity of human cognition. Causal studying underpins the improvement of our options and different types, our intuitive theories, and our capacities for making plans, mind's eye and inference. over the last few years, there was an interdisciplinary revolution in our realizing of studying and reasoning: Researchers in philosophy, psychology, and computation have stumbled on new mechanisms for studying the causal constitution of the realm. This new paintings offers a rigorous, formal foundation for conception theories of thoughts and cognitive improvement, and additionally, the causal studying mechanisms it has exposed cross dramatically past the conventional mechanisms of either nativist theories, equivalent to modularity theories, and empiricist ones, reminiscent of organization or connectionism.

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Extra resources for Causal Learning: Psychology, Philosophy, and Computation (Oxford Series in Cognitive Development)

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Both Povinelli (2000) and Call and Tomasello (1997) go on to suggest a more general characterization of the deficits exhibited in the experiments: They claim that these stem from the animals’ lack of various abstract concepts having to do with “unobservables” (Povinelli, 2000, p. 300, mentions gravity, force, shape, and mass, among others) that humans think of as mediating causal relationships. In contrast to humans, apes operate entirely within a framework of properties that can be readily perceived, and this underlies their lack of causal understanding.

Given a correlation between two variables X and Y, it would not matter how the correlation arises—whether because (a) X causes Y or because (b) X and Y have a common cause—as long as the correlation is stable and projectable. The difference between (a) and (b) begins to matter when the animal is interested in whether changing X is a way of changing Y. It is thus of considerable interest that there are striking, if incomplete, parallels between instrumental conditioning in nonhuman animals and causal learning and judgment in humans, a theme that has been systematically explored by Dickinson, Shanks, and others in a series of papers (Dickinson & Balleine, 2000; Dickinson & Shanks, 1995).

For example, they inserted sticks that were too short to reach the reward when a stick of appropriate length was available. They attempted to INTERVENTIONIST THEORIES OF CAUSATION IN PSYCHOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE use sticks with cross pieces that blocked insertion into the tube. They also inserted nonrigid objects like tape that were incapable of displacing the food. In still other experiments, the animals failed to choose implements with a hook at the end, which would have been effective in retrieving desired objects, instead of straight sticks, which were not.

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