Swipe and hold: Composing interventions in continuous time causal learning

Victor Btesh, Neil R Bramley, Maarten Speekenbrink, David A. Lagnado

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

Abstract / Description of output

We explore intervention policies chosen by participants when learning about causal structures in continuous systems. We used the continuous time and state space formalism of Ornstein-Uhlenbeck networks (Davis et al., 2020b). We find that participants' interventions can be understood as compositions of two basic actions: swipes, large movements generating large changes in values in a short time window, and holds, fixing variables for a few frames and observing the outcome. We further show that intervention policies depend on the underlying causal structure that participants are attempting to retrieve. Swipes were performed more often when there was no outgoing link, suggesting that rapid successive movements was useful in validating the absence of causal relations. On the other hand, interventions featuring longer holding times were favoured in cases where there was at least one outgoing link from the intervened node and appeared to serve the purpose of establishing the sign and strength of causal relationships. Overall, these findings indicate that causal inference in continuous contexts appears to be a two step process, where participants use different interventions for causal discovery than they do to qualify the nature of discovered links, hinting at a tendency to decompose inference to simplify it.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 45th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society
EditorsMicah Goldwater, Florencia Anggoro, Brett Hayes, Desmond Ong
PublisherThe Cognitive Science Society
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2023
Event45th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society: Cognition in Context - Sydney, Australia
Duration: 26 Jul 202329 Jul 2023

Publication series

NameProceedings of the Cognitive Science Society
PublisherThe Cognitive Science Society
ISSN (Electronic)1069-7977


Conference45th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society
Abbreviated titleCogSci2023
Internet address

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • active learning
  • causal reasoning
  • interventions
  • continuous time


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