Publication
Cognition
Paper

Children's developing understanding of the relation between variable causal efficacy and mechanistic complexity

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Abstract

Two experiments investigated 3-4-year-olds' ability to infer the causal mechanisms for a pair of lights. In both experiments the exterior of the two lights appeared identical. In Experiment 1, one light displayed a stable activation pattern of a single color while the other light displayed a variable pattern of activation by cycling through a series of different colors (i.e., a more varied effect). Children were asked to judge which light had a more complex internal structure. Four-year-olds were more likely to match the light with the more variable effect with a more complex internal mechanism and the light with the more stable effect with a less complex mechanism. Three-year-olds' responses were at chance. Experiment 2 replicated this finding when the activation patterns of the two lights were described verbally but never demonstrated. Taken together, these results suggest that 4-year-olds appreciate that the variability of an object's causal efficacy is related to the complexity of its internal mechanistic structure. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.

Date

01 Dec 2013

Publication

Cognition

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