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Adapting to an uncertain world: Cognitive capacity and causal reasoning with ambiguous observations

Shou, Yiyun; Smithson, Michael

Description

Ambiguous causal evidence in which the covariance of the cause and effect is partially known is pervasive in real life situations. Little is known about how people reason about causal associations with ambiguous information and the underlying cognitive mechanisms. This paper presents three experiments exploring the cognitive mechanisms of causal reasoning with ambiguous observations. Results revealed that the influence of ambiguous observations manifested by missing information on causal...[Show more]

dc.contributor.authorShou, Yiyun
dc.contributor.authorSmithson, Michael
dc.date.accessioned2018-11-29T22:56:15Z
dc.date.available2018-11-29T22:56:15Z
dc.identifier.issn1932-6203
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/1885/153455
dc.description.abstractAmbiguous causal evidence in which the covariance of the cause and effect is partially known is pervasive in real life situations. Little is known about how people reason about causal associations with ambiguous information and the underlying cognitive mechanisms. This paper presents three experiments exploring the cognitive mechanisms of causal reasoning with ambiguous observations. Results revealed that the influence of ambiguous observations manifested by missing information on causal reasoning depended on the availability of cognitive resources, suggesting that processing ambiguous information may involve deliberative cognitive processes. Experiment 1 demonstrated that subjects did not ignore the ambiguous observations in causal reasoning. They also had a general tendency to treat the ambiguous observations as negative evidence against the causal association. Experiment 2 and Experiment 3 included a causal learning task requiring a high cognitive demand in which paired stimuli were presented to subjects sequentially. Both experiments revealed that processing ambiguous or missing observations can depend on the availability of cognitive resources. Experiment 2 suggested that the contribution of working memory capacity to the comprehensiveness of evidence retention was reduced when there were ambiguous or missing observations. Experiment 3 demonstrated that an increase in cognitive demand due to a change in the task format reduced subjects' tendency to treat ambiguous-missing observations as negative cues. Copyright: © 2015 Shou, Smithson.This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
dc.format.mimetypeapplication/pdf
dc.publisherPublic Library of Science
dc.sourcePLOS ONE (Public Library of Science)
dc.titleAdapting to an uncertain world: Cognitive capacity and causal reasoning with ambiguous observations
dc.typeJournal article
local.description.notesImported from ARIES
local.identifier.citationvolume10
dc.date.issued2015
local.identifier.absfor170110 - Psychological Methodology, Design and Analysis
local.identifier.absfor170202 - Decision Making
local.identifier.ariespublicationU3488905xPUB8408
local.type.statusPublished Version
local.contributor.affiliationShou, Yiyun, College of Health and Medicine, ANU
local.contributor.affiliationSmithson, Michael, College of Health and Medicine, ANU
local.bibliographicCitation.issue10
local.bibliographicCitation.startpagee0140608
local.bibliographicCitation.lastpagee0140608
local.identifier.doi10.1371/journal.pone.0140608
local.identifier.absseo920401 - Behaviour and Health
dc.date.updated2018-11-29T08:11:10Z
local.identifier.scopusID2-s2.0-84949009038
local.identifier.thomsonID000363184600085
dcterms.accessRightsOpen Access
CollectionsANU Research Publications

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