Causal Reasoning as Informed by the Early Development of Explanations

Henry M. Wellman and David Liu

in Causal Learning

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

Series: Oxford Series in Cognitive Development

Causal Reasoning as Informed by the Early Development of Explanations

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Research, theory, and modeling of causal reasoning typically focus on the causal predictions and interventions that result from causal understandings. This neglects the role of explanations in causal reasoning and their role in causal learning. This chapter argues that explanations play a central role in human causal reasoning and that this is true from very early in life. It supports and elaborates this argument by showing that explanations are important to even young children, as apparent in their being frequently sought and provided by them; that explanations are sometimes strikingly easier to provide than comparable predictions, making them a powerful platform for learning; and that engaging in explanatory reasoning aids children's and adults' learning. Causal explanatory reasoning deserves a central role in our understanding of the nature and development of human causal understanding.

Keywords: childhood explanations; explanatory reasoning; causal learning; development

Chapter.  12414 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Developmental Psychology

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