Domain-Specific Causal Knowledge and Children’s Reasoning about Possibility

David M. Sobel

in Understanding Counterfactuals, Understanding Causation

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199590698
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731242 | DOI:

Series: Consciousness & Self-Consciousness Series

Domain-Specific Causal Knowledge and Children’s Reasoning about Possibility

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The goal of this chapter is to describe three lines of research centered on the hypothesis that young children possess domain-specific systems of causal knowledge that allow for various kinds of reasoning about possibility. The first line of research examines how children form and reason about hypotheses for data from novel causal systems they observe in the environment. This work is based on computational models of causal reasoning based on Bayesian inference. The second line of research examines how children conceptualize fictional worlds as opposed to reality. This work suggests that fiction (and pretense more generally) might serve as a means of exploring real-world causal structure. Finally, the third line of research examines children’s counterfactual reasoning generally construed, and explores the possibility that domain-specific causal knowledge allows for a general mechanism for counterfactual inference to function.

Keywords: causal reasoning; Bayesian inference; fantasy/reality; counterfactual reasoning; domain-specificity

Chapter.  10946 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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