Dissecting causal asymmetries in inductive generalization

Zeyu Xia, Bonan Zhao, Tadeg Quillien, Christopher G Lucas

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract / Description of output

Suppose we observe something happen in an interaction be- tween two objects A and B. Can we then predict what will hap- pen in an interaction between A and C, or between B and C? Recent research, inspired by work on the “causal asymmetry”, suggests that people use cues to causal agency to guide object- based generalization decisions, even in relatively abstract set- tings. When object A possesses cues to causal agency (e.g. it moves, remains stable throughout the interaction), people tend to predict that what happened will probably also occur in an interaction between A and C, but not between B and C. Here we replicate and extend this work, with the goal of identifying the cues that people use to determine that an object is a causal agent. In four experiments, we manipulate three properties of the agent and recipient objects. We find that people anchor their inductive generalizations around the agent object when that object possesses all three cues to causal agency, but removing either cue abolishes the asymmetry.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 44th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society
EditorsJennifer Culbertson, Andrew Perfors, Hugh Rabagliati, Veronica Ramenzoni
PublisherCognitive Science Society
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2022
Event44th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society - Toronto, Canada
Duration: 27 Jul 202230 Jul 2022
Conference number: 44

Publication series

NameProceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society
PublisherCognitive Science Society
ISSN (Electronic)1069-7977


Conference44th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society
Abbreviated titleCogSci 2022
Internet address

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • causal reasoning
  • generalization
  • inductive biases
  • intuitive physics
  • causal asymmetry


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