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God Does Not Play Dice: Causal Determinism and Preschoolers' Causal Inferences

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Three studies investigated children's belief in causal determinism. If children are determinists, they should infer unobserved causes whenever observed causes appear to act stochastically. In Experiment 1, 4-year-olds saw a stochastic generative cause and inferred the existence of an unobserved inhibitory cause. Children traded off inferences about the presence of unobserved inhibitory causes and the absence of unobserved generative causes. In Experiment 2, 4-year-olds used the pattern of indeterminacy to decide whether unobserved variables were generative or inhibitory. Experiment 3 suggested that children (4 years old) resist believing that direct causes can act stochastically, although they accept that events can be stochastically associated. Children's deterministic assumptions seem to support inferences not obtainable from other cues.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2: University of Washington

Publication date: March 1, 2006

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