QJEP paper on domino effects in causation

Our paper on domino effects in causation is now out in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology — the paper shows that when you contradict a node in a causal chain (e.g., A in A caused B and B caused C), the rest of the chain topples like falling dominoes. The results support the idea that people construct simulations when they reason about conflicts instead of revising their knowledge in a minimal way.

The paper is available for download here and the abstract is available here:

Inconsistent beliefs call for revision—but which of them should individuals revise? A long-standing view is that they should make minimal changes that restore consistency. An alternative view is that their primary task is to explain how the inconsistency arose. Hence, they are likely to violate minimalism in two ways: they should infer more information than is strictly necessary to establish consistency and they should reject more information than is strictly necessary to establish consistency. Previous studies corroborated the first effect: reasoners use causal simulations to build explanations that resolve inconsistencies. Here, we show that the second effect is true too: they use causal simulations to reject more information than is strictly necessary to establish consistency. When they abandon a cause, the effects of the cause topple like dominos: Reasoners tend to deny the occurrence of each subsequent event in the chain. Four studies corroborated this prediction.