Normative and descriptive accounts of the influence of power and contingency on causal judgement
Source: The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology A, 1 January 2003, vol. 56, no. 6, pp. 977-1007(31)
Abstract:The power PC theory (Cheng, 1997) is a normative account of causal inference, which predicts that causal judgements are based on the power p of a potential cause, where p is the cause-effect contingency normalized by the base rate of the effect. In three experiments we demonstrate that both cause-effect contingency and effect base-rate independently affect estimates in causal learning tasks. In Experiment 1, causal strength judgements were directly related to power p in a task in which the effect base-rate was manipulated across two positive and two negative contingency conditions. In Experiments 2 and 3 contingency manipulations affected causal estimates in several situations in which power p was held constant, contrary to the power PC theory's predictions. This latter effect cannot be explained by participants' conflation of reliability and causal strength, as Experiment 3 demonstrated independence of causal judgements and confidence. From a descriptive point of view, the data are compatible with Pearce's (1987) model, as well as with several other judgement rules, but not with the Rescorla-Wagner (Rescorla & Wagner, 1972) or power PC models.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: January 1, 2003