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ERIC Number: EJ831507
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Mar
Pages: 19
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 56
ISSN: ISSN-0278-7393
Spontaneous Assimilation of Continuous Values and Temporal Information in Causal Induction
Marsh, Jessecae K.; Ahn, Woo-kyoung
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, v35 n2 p334-352 Mar 2009
Existing models of causal induction primarily rely on the contingency between the presence and the absence of a causal candidate and an effect. Yet, classification of observations into these four types of covariation data may not be straightforward because (a) most causal candidates, in real life, are continuous with ambiguous, intermediate values and because (b) effects may unfold after some temporal lag, providing ambiguous contingency information. Although past studies suggested various reasons why ambiguous information may not be used during causal induction, the authors examined whether learners spontaneously use ambiguous information through a process called causal assimilation. In particular, the authors examined whether learners willingly place ambiguous observations into one of the categories relevant to the causal hypothesis, in accordance with their current causal beliefs. In Experiment 1, people's frequency estimates of contingency data reflected that information ambiguous along a continuous quantity dimension was spontaneously categorized and assimilated in a causal induction task. This assimilation process was moderated by the strength of the upheld causal hypothesis (Experiment 2), could alter the overall perception of a causal relationship (Experiment 3), and could occur over temporal sequences (Experiment 4). (Contains 5 tables, 6 figures and 8 footnotes.)
American Psychological Association. Journals Department, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242. Tel: 800-374-2721; Tel: 202-336-5510; Fax: 202-336-5502; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Connecticut