(Fake News Subtheme) More than just new evidence: How category learning fosters belief revision

AbstractCausal judgments are stubborn. If people learn about two correlated variables B and C, and judge that B causes C, they typically stick to that judgment even when contradictory evidence comes to light. One form of contradictory evidence is that a third variable A causes both B and C, explaining the correlation. This paper extends prior work showing that simply presenting statistical evidence that A is the common cause of both B and C does not lead to belief change about B. However, if first subjects learn to categorize phenomena by their underlying causal relationships (i.e., as exemplars of a common cause category), then they can transfer their category knowledge to properly interpret the evidence. They recognize that A is the common cause of B and C and revise their belief about B. These results suggest that teaching abstract causal categories is a promising strategy to help revise false beliefs.

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