Incremental Hypothesis Revision in Causal Reasoning Across Development

AbstractWe explore whether children’s strategies on a causal learning task show a bias observed in adults towards “exploitative” hypothesis revision. Adults and children (ages 4–6) were presented with evidence which initially seemed to conform to a simple, salient rule (e.g. blue blocks activate a machine), but then encountered evidence that violated this rule. The true rule in the “near” condition was more complex, but could be reached through iterative revision of the salient rule, while in the “distant” condition, the true rule was comparatively simple, but incremental revision could not yield the true rule. Participants then predicted the behaviour of a set of new blocks. Adults performed better in the near condition, while in the distant condition adults did not appear to revise their initial hypothesis significantly. Unlike adults, children's overall performance in both conditions was similar, while condition differences may reflect a broader search for alternative solutions.

Return to previous page