Monday, April 03, 2006

Causal inference

via MIT News

Laura Schulz at MIT is studiing the causal inference in babies and children. In a recent study, she shows:
Even preschoolers approach the world much like scientists: They are convinced that perplexing and unpredictable events can be explained... The way kids play and explore suggests that children believe cause-and-effect relationships in the world are governed by fundamental laws rather than by mysterious forces.

Lets take a look at the experiment:
In one study, the experimenters showed children that a switch made a toy with a metal ring light up. Half the children saw the switch work all the time; half saw that the switch only lit the ring toy some of the time. The experimenters also showed the children that removing the ring stopped the toy from lighting up. The experimenters kept the switch, gave the toy to the children and asked the children to stop the toy from lighting up.

If the switch always worked, children removed the ring. If the switch only worked some of the time, children could have removed the ring but they didn't--they assumed that the experimenter had some additional sneaky way of stopping the effect. Children did something completely new: they picked up an object that had been hidden in the experimenter's hand (a squeezable keychain flashlight) and used that to try to stop the toy. That is, the children didn't just accept that the switch might work only some of the time. They looked for an explanation.

Schulz said she believes this is the first study that looks at how probabilistic evidence affects children's reasoning about unobserved causes. The researchers found that children are conservative about unobserved causes (they don't always think mysterious things are happening) but would rather accept unobserved causes than accept that things happen at random.

All that lead me to think about the believing in God. If we have a innate propensity to try to do find causal inference to everything more than finding a random explaination, is it innate to believe in a metaphysical power over us ? If parents do not give explaination about the causal-effect, telling children that is because God wants it ! They will probably set a God in they mind to explain a lot of physical world facts. As we know children learn it quick and strong, so they could believe forever if we don't give them the right answer about the causal relation in the world. So c'mon, tell the physical fact and thrut to children, do not fool them with religious bullshit...

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