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The role of cue information in the outcome-density effect: Evidence from neural network simulations and a causal learning experiment
Abstract and Figures
Although normatively irrelevant to the relationship between a cue and an outcome, outcome density (i.e. its base-rate probability) affects people's estimation of causality. By what process causality is incorrectly estimated is of importance to an integrative theory of causal learning. A potential explanation may be that this happens because outcome density induces a judgement bias. An alternative explanation is explored here, following which the incorrect estimation of causality is grounded in the processing of cue–outcome information during learning. A first neural network simulation shows that, in the absence of a deep processing of cue information, cue–outcome relationships are acquired but causality is correctly estimated. The second simulation shows how an incorrect estimation of causality may emerge from the active processing of both cue and outcome information. In an experiment inspired by the simulations, the role of a deep processing of cue information was put to test. In addition to an outcome density manipulation, a shallow cue manipulation was introduced: cue information was either still displayed (concurrent) or no longer displayed (delayed) when outcome information was given. Behavioural and simulation results agree: the outcome-density effect was maximal in the concurrent condition. The results are discussed with respect to the extant explanations of the outcome-density effect within the causal learning framework.
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