Cause and Intent: Social Reasoning in Causal Learning

Abstract

The acquisition of causal knowledge is a primary goal of childhood; yet most of this knowledge is known already to adults. We argue that causal learning which leverages social reasoning is a rapid and important route to knowledge. We present a computational model integrating knowledge about causality with knowledge about intentional agency, but using a domain-general mechanism for reasoning. Inference in this model predicts qualitatively different learning than an equivalent model based on causality alone or a hybrid causal-encoding model. We test these predictions experimentally with adult participants, and discuss the relation of these results to the developmental phenomenon of over-imitation.


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