Double Prevention, Causal Judgments, and Counterfactuals.
Mike accidentally knocked against a bottle. Seeing that the bottle was about to fall, Jack was just about to catch it when Peter accidentally knocked against him, making Jack unable to catch it. Jack did not grab the bottle, and it fell to the ground and spilled. In double-prevention cases like these, philosophers and nonphilosophers alike tend to judge that Mike knocking into the bottle caused the beer to spill and that Peter knocking into Jack did not cause the beer to spill. This difference in causal judgment is a difficult puzzle for counterfactual theories of causal judgment; if each event had not happened, the outcome would not have, yet there is a difference in people's causal judgments. In four experiments and three supplemental experiments, we confirm this difference in causal judgments. We also show that differences in people's counterfactual thinking can explain this difference in their causal judgments and that recent counterfactual models of causal judgment can account for these patterns. We discuss these results in relation to work on counterfactual thinking and causal modeling.
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