Chapter

Counterfactual and generative accounts of causal attribution

Clare R. Walsh and Steven A. Sloman

in Causality in the Sciences

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199574131
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191728921 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199574131.003.0009
Counterfactual and generative accounts of causal attribution

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Causal attribution is central to people's ability to understand and make sense of the world. It is necessary to explain why events occurred, to predict the consequences of actions as well as other events, and to assign credit and blame. The question this chapter aims to address is how people make these attributions. Interest is in the explanation of single events, for example, how someone explains what caused this particular window to break, rather than general occurrences, such as what kinds of things usually cause windows to break. This question has been studied for millennia and yet the answer remains elusive. The chapter reviews some of the existing research and offer a bit of new evidence about how people make causal attributions. The chapter's review will focus on two major types of theory: counterfactual and generative theories.

Keywords: psychology of causation; causal attribution; meaning of cause and prevent

Chapter.  7898 words. 

Subjects: Logic

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