Tell me your (cognitive) budget, and I'll tell you what you value

David Kinney, Tania Lombrozo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Consider the following two (hypothetical) generic causal claims: “Living in a neighborhood with many families with children increases purchases of bicycles” and “living in an affluent neighborhood with many families with children increases purchases of bicycles.” These claims not only differ in what they suggest about how bicycle ownership is distributed across different neighborhoods (i.e., “the data”), but also have the potential to communicate something about the speakers’ values: namely, the prominence they accord to affluence in representing and making decisions about the social world. Here, we examine the relationship between the level of granularity with which a cause is described in a generic causal claim (e.g., neighborhood vs. affluent neighborhood) and the value of the information contained in the causal model that generates that claim. We argue that listeners who know any two of the following can make reliable inferences about the third: 1) the level of granularity at which a speaker makes a generic causal claim, 2) the speaker's values, and 3) the data available to the speaker. We present results of four experiments (N = 1323) in the domain of social categories that provide evidence in keeping with these predictions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105782
JournalCognition
Volume247
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

Keywords

  • Causation
  • Generics
  • Granularity
  • Social categories

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