Causal intervention strategies change across adolescence

AbstractIntervening on causal systems can illuminate their underlying structures. Past work has shown that, relative to adults, young children often make intervention decisions that confirm single hypotheses rather than those that discriminate alternative hypotheses. Here, we investigated how the ability to make informative intervention decisions changes across development. Ninety participants between the ages of 7 and 25 completed 40 different puzzles in which they had to intervene on various causal systems to determine their underlying structures. We found that the use of discriminatory strategies increased through adolescence and plateaued into adulthood. Our results identify a clear developmental trend in causal reasoning, and highlight the need to expand research on causal learning mechanisms in adolescence.

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