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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Variability in causal judgments


People’s causal judgments exhibit substantial variability, but the processes that lead to this variability are not currently understood. In this paper, we use a repeated-measures design to study the within-participant variability of conditional probability judgments in common-cause networks. We establish that these judgments indeed exhibit substantial within-participant variability. This variability differs by inference type and is related to the extent to which participants commit Markov violations. The consistency and systematicity of this variability suggest that it may be an important source of evidence for the cognitive processes that lead to causal judgments. The systematic study of both within- and between-person variability broadens the scope of behavior that can be studied in causal cognition and promotes the evaluation of formal models of the underlying process. The data and methods provided in this paper provide tools to enable the further study of within-participant variability in causal judgment.

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