The Invisible Hand: Toddlers Connect Probabilistic Events With Agentive Causes
Author(s)Muentener, Paul; Wu, Yang; Schulz, Laura E
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Children posit unobserved causes when events appear to occur spontaneously (e.g., Gelman & Gottfried, 1996). What about when events appear to occur probabilistically? Here toddlers (M = 20.1 months) saw arbitrary causal relationships (Cause A generated Effect A; Cause B generated Effect B) in a fixed, alternating order. The relationships were then changed in one of two ways. In the Deterministic condition, the event order changed (Event B preceded Event A); in the Probabilistic condition, the causal relationships changed (Cause A generated Effect B; Cause B generated Effect A). As intended, toddlers looked equally long at both changes (Experiment 1). We then introduced a previously unseen candidate cause. Toddlers looked longer at the appearance of a hand (Experiment 2) and novel agent (Experiment 3) in the Deterministic than the Probabilistic conditions, but looked equally long at novel non-agents (Experiment 4), suggesting that by 2 years of age, toddlers connect probabilistic events with unobserved agents.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Wu, Yang et al. “The Invisible Hand: Toddlers Connect Probabilistic Events With Agentive Causes.” Cognitive Science 40, 8 (October 2015): 1854–1876 © 2015 Cognitive Science Society, Inc
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