Strategies of Information Search in Causal Analysis

  • Shaklee H
  • Fischhoff B
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Five experiments investigated the relative prevalence of three search patterns that individuals may use in explaining events with multiple possible causes: {1} parallel search--pursue information about all possible causes before making any causal judgments, {2} serial search--clarify the role of one cause before considering any others, {3} truncated search--clarify the role of one cause without proceeding to consider other causes. In Experiments 1, 2, and 3, subjects were told about an event, two or three n_onexclusive possible causes of the
event, and a fact implicating one of the suggested causes as influencing the event. Subjects were asked for the question whose answer would help them most in explaining the event. In each experiment, subjects preferred to clarify the role of the implicated cause, a pattern congruent with both the serial and truncated search strategies. Results of a fourth experiment indicated that these preferences reflect a truncated rather than a serial search. A final experiment demonstrated that the preference for information about the implicated cause persists even with the opportunity for a more extended search.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Causal Inference; Cognitive Science; Causation

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  • Harriet Shaklee

  • Baruch Fischhoff

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