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How Children Grasp the Causal Structure of the World

Frank Keil

Tuesday, April 10, 2007, 01:00pm - 02:00pm

Yale University, Department of Psychology

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Children can only track part of the immense causal complexity that exists in the world around them, raising questions as to what causal patterns they do use and how they deal with the incompleteness of their understanding. The problem is exacerbated by demonstrations that people of all ages grossly overestimate the depth and quality of their causal understandings. Yet, at a more implicit level, even quite young children are highly effective at extracting causal gists that enable them to build more detailed causal explanations when needed and that allow them to effectively use the division of cognitive labor that exists in all cultures. A series of studies is described showing the ways in which children can and cannot grasp causal structure and how they learn to leverage their partial understandings through accessing knowledge in other minds.

Frank Keil