Causal Models: How People Think About The World And Its Alternatives

Hardcover | July 15, 2005

bySteven Sloman

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Human beings are active agents who can think. To understand how thought serves action requires understanding how people conceive of the relation between cause and effect, between action and outcome. In cognitive terms, how do people construct and reason with the causal models we use torepresent our world? A revolution is occurring in how statisticians, philosophers, and computer scientists answer this question. Those fields have ushered in new insights about causal models by thinking about how to represent causal structure mathematically, in a framework that uses graphs andprobability theory to develop what are called causal Bayesian networks. The framework starts with the idea that the purpose of causal structure is to understand and predict the effects of intervention. How does intervening on one thing affect other things? This is not a question merely aboutprobability (or logic), but about action. The framework offers a new understanding of mind: Thought is about the effects of intervention and cognition is thus intimately tied to actions that take place either in the actual physical world or in imagination, in counterfactual worlds. The book offersa conceptual introduction to the key mathematical ideas, presenting them in a non-technical way, focusing on the intuitions rather than the theorems. It tries to show why the ideas are important to understanding how people explain things and why thinking not only about the world as it is but theworld as it could be is so central to human action. The book reviews the role of causality, causal models, and intervention in the basic human cognitive functions: decision making, reasoning, judgment, categorization, inductive inference, language, and learning. In short, the book offers adiscussion about how people think, talk, learn, and explain things in causal terms, in terms of action and manipulation.

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Human beings are active agents who can think. To understand how thought serves action requires understanding how people conceive of the relation between cause and effect, between action and outcome. In cognitive terms, how do people construct and reason with the causal models we use torepresent our world? A revolution is occurring i...

Steven Sloman has been on the faculty in Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences at Brown University since 1992. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto in 1986 and received a Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford in 1990. He has published many papers and a book about human cognition on topics ranging from categori...

other books by Steven Sloman

The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone
The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone

Hardcover|Mar 14 2017

$33.44 online$37.00list price(save 9%)
Format:HardcoverDimensions:224 pages, 6.3 × 9.29 × 0.91 inPublished:July 15, 2005Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195183118

ISBN - 13:9780195183115

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"Sloman has written an accessible, popular-level book that will serve as a useful general introduction to the tricky and complex issues involved in understanding causality and its role in cognitive processing. For people who are unfamiliar with the issues and the research involved, this is agood starting point, although parts may require thoughtful rereadings. For people who are generally familiar with the issues but not the recent research or theoretical conceptions (e.g., the use of counterfactuals), this book can serve as a useful guide to update one's knowledge. People who areactively working in this area will probably find this book a quick and enjoyable read."--Michael Palij, PsycCRITIQUES