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ERIC Number: EJ836528
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-May
Pages: 16
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 42
ISSN: ISSN-0278-7393
Causal Learning with Local Computations
Fernbach, Philip M.; Sloman, Steven A.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, v35 n3 p678-693 May 2009
The authors proposed and tested a psychological theory of causal structure learning based on local computations. Local computations simplify complex learning problems via cues available on individual trials to update a single causal structure hypothesis. Structural inferences from local computations make minimal demands on memory, require relatively small amounts of data, and need not respect normative prescriptions as inferences that are principled locally may violate those principles when combined. Over a series of 3 experiments, the authors found (a) systematic inferences from small amounts of data; (b) systematic inference of extraneous causal links; (c) influence of data presentation order on inferences; and (d) error reduction through pretraining. Without pretraining, a model based on local computations fitted data better than a Bayesian structural inference model. The data suggest that local computations serve as a heuristic for learning causal structure. (Contains 13 figures and 1 table.)
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 - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A