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Causal LearningPsychology, Philosophy, and Computation$
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Alison Gopnik and Laura Schulz

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195176803

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195176803.001.0001

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Detecting Causal Structure

Detecting Causal Structure

The Role of Interventions in Infants’ Understanding of Psychological and Physical Causal Relations

(p.48) 3 Detecting Causal Structure
Causal Learning

Jessica A. Sommerville

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that infants' experience of their own actions and the consequences that these actions have on the world play an important role in their developing understanding of causal relations. Recent philosophical theories of causation take an interventionist perspective on causality: If manipulations on one factor (interventions) are associated with a change in a second factor, then the first causes the second. In addition, empirical evidence suggests that both adults and young children readily learn causal structure from enacting and observing interventions. This chapter presents evidence that infants' developing ability to act on the world is intimately linked to their causal understanding. Infants' interventions may enable them to evaluate causal hypotheses and to detect the causal structure of various events in the world.

Keywords:   infants, interventions, causal relations, causal learning, causation

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