The tight coupling between category and causal learning


The main goal of the present research was to demonstrate the interaction between category and causal induction in causal model learning. We used a two-phase learning procedure in which learners were presented with learning input referring to two interconnected causal relations forming a causal chain (Experiment 1) or a common-cause model (Experiments 2a, b). One of the three events (i.e., the intermediate event of the chain, or the common cause) was presented as a set of uncategorized exemplars. Although participants were not provided with any feedback about category labels, they tended to induce categories in the first phase that maximized the predictability of their causes or effects. In the second causal learning phase, participants had the choice between transferring the newly learned categories from the first phase at the cost of suboptimal predictions, or they could induce a new set of optimally predictive categories for the second causal relation, but at the cost of proliferating different category schemes for the same set of events. It turned out that in all three experiments learners tended to transfer the categories entailed by the first causal relation to the second causal relation.

Cognitive Processing, 2, 143–158