Causal models frame interpretation of mathematical equations

Abstract

We offer evidence that people can construe mathematical relations as causal. The studies show that people can select the causal versions of equations and that their selections predict both what they consider most understandable and how they expect variables to influence one another. When asked to write down equations, people have a strong preference for the version that matches their causal model. Causal models serve to structure equations by determining the preferred order of variables: Causes should be on one side of an equality, and a single effect should appear on the other.

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Correspondence to Steven A. Sloman.

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This work was funded by NASA Grant NCC2-1217.

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Mochon, D., Sloman, S.A. Causal models frame interpretation of mathematical equations. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 11, 1099–1104 (2004). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03196743

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Keywords

  • Causal Model
  • Causal Structure
  • Modal Choice
  • Causal Interpretation
  • Causal Graph