Measuring and Modeling Confidence in Human Causal Judgment

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The human capacity for causal judgment has long been thought to depend on an ability to consider counterfactual alternatives: the lightning strike caused the forest fire because had it not struck, the forest fire would not have ensued. To accommodate psychological effects on causal judgment, a range of recent accounts of causal judgment have proposed that people probabilistically sample counterfactual alternatives from which they compute a graded index of causal strength. While such models have had success in describing the influence of probability on causal judgments, among other effects, we show that these models make further untested predictions: probability should also influence people's metacognitive confidence in their causal judgments. In a large (N=3020) sample of participants in a causal judgment task, we found evidence that normality indeed influences people's confidence in their causal judgments and that these influences were predicted by a counterfactual sampling model. We take this result as supporting evidence for existing Bayesian accounts of causal judgment.






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O'Neill, Kevin, Paul Henne, John Pearson and Felipe De Brigard (2021). Measuring and Modeling Confidence in Human Causal Judgment. 10.31234/ Retrieved from

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De Brigard

Felipe De Brigard

Fuchsberg-Levine Family Associate Professor

Most of my research focuses on the way in which memory and imagination interact. So far, I have explored ways in which episodic memory both guides and constrains episodic counterfactual thinking (i.e., thoughts about alternative ways in which past personal events could have occurred), and how this interaction affects the perceived plausibility of imagined counterfactual events. I also explore the differential contribution of episodic and semantic memory in the generation of different kinds of counterfactual simulations, as well as the effect of counterfactual thinking on the memories they derive from. In addition, my research attempts to understand how prior experience helps to constrain the way in which we reconstruct episodic memories. Finally, I am also interested in the role of internal attention during conscious recollection. To address these issues I use behavioral and functional magnetic resonance imaging techniques, as well as the conceptual rigor of philosophical analysis.

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