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Abstract HTML Views: 293 PDF Downloads: 132 Total Views/Downloads: 556
The close relation between time and causality is undisputed, but there is a paucity of research on how people use temporal information to inform their causal judgments. Experiment 1 examined the effect of delay variability on causal judgments, and whether participants were sensitive to the presence of a hastener cue that reduced the delay between cause and effect without changing the contingency. The results showed that higher causal ratings were given to causeeffect pairs with less variable delays, but that conditions with an active hastener actually reduced participants ratings of the causal cues. The latter finding can also be explained in terms of people's sensitivity to variability, because an undetected hastener leads to greater variability in experienced delays. Experiment 2 followed up previous research showing that people give higher causal ratings to cause-effect pairs with shorter delays. We examined whether this finding might be due to the greater probability of intervening events rather than the length of delay per se. The results supported the former conjecture: participants' causal ratings were influenced by the probability of intervening events in the cause-effect interval and not the mere length of delay. The findings from both experiments raise questions for current theories of causal learning.