Explanatory Value and Probabilistic Reasoning

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Colombo, Matteo; Bucher, Leandra; Postma, Marie; Sprenger, Jan
preprint description
The question of how judgments of explanatory value (should) inform probabilistic inference is well studied within psychology and philosophy. Less studied are the questions: How does probabilistic information affect judgments of explanatory value? Does probabilistic information take precedence over causal information in determining explanatory judgments? To answer these questions, we conducted two experimental studies. In Study 1, we found that probabilistic information had a negligible impact on explanatory judgments of event-types with a potentially unlimited number of available, alternative explanations; causal credibility was the main determinant of explanatory value. In Study 2, we found that, for event-token explanations with a definite set of candidate alternatives, probabilistic information strongly affected judgments of explanatory value. In the light of these findings, we reassess under which circumstances explanatory inference is probabilistically sound.