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Understanding Counterfactuals, Understanding CausationIssues in Philosophy and Psychology$
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Christoph Hoerl, Teresa McCormack, and Sarah R. Beck

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199590698

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199590698.001.0001

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The Relationship between Children’s Causal and Counterfactual Judgements

The Relationship between Children’s Causal and Counterfactual Judgements

(p.54) 2 The Relationship between Children’s Causal and Counterfactual Judgements
Understanding Counterfactuals, Understanding Causation

Teresa McCormack

Caren Frosch

Patrick Burns

Oxford University Press

In this chapter, we distinguish between two ways in which counterfactual and causal judgements might be linked. According to a psychological relatedness view, counterfactual and causal judgements are viewed as psychologically related and expected to be consistent with each other, whereas according to a counterfactual process view, counterfactual thought is thought to be actually involved in the process of making causal judgements. Our research with young children is discussed in terms of whether it provides support for either of these views. The findings of studies in which children were asked to make counterfactual judgements about the effects of intervening on a causal system suggest that causal and counterfactual judgements are not necessarily consistent in children. However, the findings of our studies in which children judge whether an object possesses a causal power provided some evidence for a link between causal and counterfactual judgements. We discuss whether counterfactual reasoning may actually be involved in the process of making certain types of simple causal judgements, in tasks examining cue competition effects.

Keywords:   causal reasoning, causal learning, counterfactual reasoning, cognitive development, causal models

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