Causal Systems Categories: Differences in Novice and Expert Categorization of Causal Phenomena

Benjamin M. Rottman, Dedre Gentner*, Micah B. Goldwater

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations

Abstract

We investigated the understanding of causal systems categories-categories defined by common causal structure rather than by common domain content-among college students. We asked students who were either novices or experts in the physical sciences to sort descriptions of real-world phenomena that varied in their causal structure (e.g., negative feedback vs. causal chain) and in their content domain (e.g., economics vs. biology). Our hypothesis was that there would be a shift from domain-based sorting to causal sorting with increasing expertise in the relevant domains. This prediction was borne out: The novice groups sorted primarily by domain and the expert group sorted by causal category. These results suggest that science training facilitates insight about causal structures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)919-932
Number of pages14
JournalCognitive Science
Volume36
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2012

Keywords

  • Categorization
  • Causal reasoning
  • Expertise
  • Relational categories

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Artificial Intelligence

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Causal Systems Categories: Differences in Novice and Expert Categorization of Causal Phenomena'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this