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The Counterfactual Simulation Model of Causal Judgment: A Novel Approach to Understanding Causal Verbs

Date and Time: 
Thursday, February 28, 2019. 03:00 PM - 04:30 PM
Meeting Location: 
Building 460, Room 126
Workshop: 
Cognition and Language Workshop
Meeting Description: 

How do we make causal judgments? And how do we choose from a variety of causal verbs the one that best describes what happened? I will present a computational framework for modeling causal explanations in terms of counterfactual contrasts defined over intuitive domain theories. Focusing on people's intuitive understanding of physics, I will present several lines of experiments testing this framework. The counterfactual simulation model (CSM) predicts people's causal judgments about a variety of physical scenes, including dynamic collision events, complex situations that involve multiple causes, omissions as causes, and causal responsibility for a system's stability. It also captures the cognitive processes underlying these judgments as revealed by spontaneous eye movements. I will discuss how the CSM may help us better understand the mapping between causal events in the world and the words we use to describe them.

Tobias Gerstenberg is an assistant professor of Psychology at Stanford University.

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