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Abstract

The present study investigated (i) the relationship between blame and perceived causality; (ii) the effect of the nature of causes on causal inference. Seventy-two persons from three age groups (5, 9 years and adults) responded to behavioural events which varied in outcome intensity, the nature of the cause (internal/external) and its presence (present/absent). The latter two factors had a marked effect on attributed blame and inferred causes as an age × nature × presence of cause interaction was found in both cases. However, inferred causes were not systematically related to attributed blame. Outcome severity led to more extreme blame ratings in all groups but only affected the causal scheme used by adults. The results are discussed in terms of over-attribution to persons and a more precise criterion for the use of the multiple sufficient cause scheme is evaluated.