Teaching the Normative Theory of Causal Reasoning

Richard Seheines*, Matt Easterday, David Danks

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Nearly all of the psychological research on human causal learning involves naïve participants; that is, individuals who have not been taught the normative theory in any way, shape, or form. Almost all of this research involves single-trial learning: observing how subjects form and update their causal beliefs from the outcome of a series of trials, each either an experiment on a single individual or a single episode of a system's behavior. No work is known to attempt to train people normatively on this and related tasks, and no work compares the performance of naïve participants and those taught the normative theory. This chapter describes such a project. The goal is to determine if formal education about normative causal reasoning helps students draw accurate causal inferences. The chapter is organized as follows. It first briefly describes what the authors' take to be the normative theory of causal reasoning. It then describes the online corpus developed for teaching it. Finally, it describes four pilot studies performed in the fall of 2004 with the Causality Lab, a major part of the online corpus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCausal Learning
Subtitle of host publicationPsychology, Philosophy, and Computation
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199958511
ISBN (Print)9780195176803
StatePublished - Apr 1 2010


  • Causal bayes nets
  • Causal learning
  • Causal reasoning
  • Causal understanding
  • Normative theory
  • Online corpus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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