Interventionist Theories of Causation in Psychological Perspective

Jim Woodward

in Causal Learning

Published in print April 2007 | ISBN: 9780195176803
Published online April 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199958511 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Series in Cognitive Development

Interventionist Theories of Causation in Psychological Perspective

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The guiding idea of interventionist accounts of causation is that causal claims (e.g. C causes E) have to do with what would happen to E if an intervention (an idealized experimental manipulation) were to be performed on C. Although originally proposed as a normative, philosophical account of causation, one may also ask how interventionism fares as an account of the empirical psychology of causal learning and judgment in humans and other animals. This chapter explores this question, focusing more specifically on the following: the connection between causal learning and operant conditioning, the connection between counterfactual claims involving interventions and causal judgment, and the role of interventions in facilitating causal learning. Causal understanding in non-human primates is also discussed from an interventionist perspective.

Keywords: interventionist theory; causation; primate causal understanding; operant conditioning; causal judgment

Chapter.  13408 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Developmental Psychology

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