PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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Explaining the Impact of Normality on Causal Intuitions: The Role of Sampling Propensities

We offer an account of the role of normality—both statistical and prescriptive—in judgments of actual causation. Using only standard tools from the literature on causal cognition, we argue that the phenomenon can be explained simply on the assumption that people stochastically sample (counterfactual) scenarios in a way that reflects perceived normality. We show that a formalization of this idea can account for some of the most puzzling qualitative patterns uncovered in recent experimental work on the topic, and present new experimental work confirming a novel (and perhaps surprising) prediction made by the model.

Author Information:

Thomas Icard    
Stanford University

Jonathan Kominsky    
Yale University

Joshua Knobe    
Yale University


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