Distinguishing between causes and enabling conditions-through mental models or linguistic cues?

Cognitive science

PubMedID: 21702804

Kuhnmünch G, Beller S. Distinguishing between causes and enabling conditions-through mental models or linguistic cues?. Cogn Sci. 2005;29(6):1077-90.
The mental model theory of naive causal understanding and reasoning (Goldvarg & Johnson-Laird, 2001, Cognitive Science, 25, 565-610) claims that people distinguish between causes and enabling conditions on the basis of sets of models that represent possible causal situations. In the tasks used to test this hypothesis, however, the proposed set of models was confounded with linguistic cues that frame which event to assume as given (the enabling condition) and which to consider as responsible for the effect under this assumption (the cause). By disentangling these two factors, we were able to show that when identifying causes and enabling conditions in these tasks, people rely strongly on the linguistic cues but not on the proposed set of models and that this set of models does not even reflect people's typical interpretation of the tasks. We propose an alternative explanation that integrates syntactic and causal considerations.