Inference and Explanation in Counterfactual Reasoning
Article first published online: 31 JAN 2013
Copyright © 2013 Cognitive Science Society, Inc.
Special Issue: 2011 Rumelhart Prize Special Issue Honoring Judea Pearl Edited by Steven A. Sloman and Judea Pearl
Volume 37, Issue 6, pages 1107–1135, August 2013
How to Cite
Rips, L. J. and Edwards, B. J. (2013), Inference and Explanation in Counterfactual Reasoning. Cognitive Science, 37: 1107–1135. doi: 10.1111/cogs.12024
- Issue published online: 8 AUG 2013
- Article first published online: 31 JAN 2013
- Manuscript Accepted: 9 JUL 2012
- Manuscript Revised: 29 JUN 2012
- Manuscript Received: 10 FEB 2012
- IES. Grant Number: R305A080341
- Counterfactual conditionals;
- Bayes nets;
This article reports results from two studies of how people answer counterfactual questions about simple machines. Participants learned about devices that have a specific configuration of components, and they answered questions of the form “If component X had not operated [failed], would component Y have operated?” The data from these studies indicate that participants were sensitive to the way in which the antecedent state is described—whether component X “had not operated” or “had failed.” Answers also depended on whether the device is deterministic or probabilistic—whether X's causal parents “always” or only “usually” cause X to operate. Participants' explanations of their answers often invoked non-operation of causally prior components or unreliability of prior connections. They less often mentioned independence from these causal elements.