A theory of causal learning in children: Causal maps and Bayes nets

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Gopnik, Alison; Glymour, Clark; Sobel, David; Schulz, Laura; Kushnir, Tamar; Danks, David
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We propose that children employ specialized cognitive systems that allow them to recover an accurate causal map of the world: an abstract, coherent, learned representation of the causal relations among events. This kind of knowledge can be perspicuously understood in terms of the formalism of directed graphical causal models, or Bayes nets. Children's causal learning and inference may involve computations similar to those for learning causal Bayes nets and for predicting with them. Experimental results suggest that 2- to 4-year-old children construct new causal maps and that their learning is consistent with the Bayes net formalism.