Chapter

The structural theory of causation

Judea Pearl

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/9780199574131.003.0033
The structural theory of causation

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This chapter presents a general theory of causation based on the Structural Causal Model (SCM) described by Pearl (2000a). The theory subsumes and unifies current approaches to causation, including graphical, potential outcome, probabilistic, decision analytical, and structural equation models, and provides both a mathematical foundation and a friendly calculus for the analysis of causes and counterfactuals. In particular, the chapter demonstrates how the theory engenders a coherent methodology for inferring (from a combination of data and assumptions) answers to three types of causal queries: (1) queries about the effects of potential interventions, (2) queries about probabilities of counterfactuals, and (3) queries about direct and indirect effects.

Keywords: structural equation models; confounding; graphical methods; counterfactuals; causal effects; potential-outcome; probabilistic causation

Chapter.  13757 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Logic

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