Chapter

Real causes and ideal manipulations: Pearl's theory of causal inference from the point of view of psychological research methods

Keith A. Markus

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/9780199574131.003.0012
Real causes and ideal manipulations: Pearl's theory of causal inference from the point of view of psychological research methods

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Pearl's work on causation has helped focus new attention on the nature of causal reasoning and causal inference in behavioural science. Pearl takes an axiomatic approach, presenting axioms as first principles, but these may be better understood as boundary conditions for the application of the theory. Pearl adopts a non‐eliminative but instrumental approach to causation which creates some tension with the tradition of ruling out rival hypotheses in the behavioural sciences. Finally, much causal reasoning in the behavioural sciences involves reasoning across possible worlds that differ in their causal structure, which becomes awkward within the basic architecture of Pearl's system. A neighbourhood semantics approach could represent this type of reasoning more naturally. Consideration of these issues may be helpful both to behavioural scientists working to incorporate Pearl's work and also to those working outside the behavioural sciences attempting to explain causal reasoning within those sciences.

Keywords: cause; causation; counterfactual; causal model; research design

Chapter.  13950 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Logic

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