Differential reliance on the causal core concept in the domain of physics and biology

Schneider, Julia; Abbaspour, Sufi; Cacchione, Trix (8 January 2016). Differential reliance on the causal core concept in the domain of physics and biology (Unpublished). In: BCCCD 2016 the 6th Annual Conference on Cognitive Development. Budapest, Hungary. 07.01.-09.01.2016.

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Dispositional theories of causality suggest that people intuitively associate causality with an antagonistic interaction between an agentive cause-object and a passive effect-object involving an asymmetric impact of forces (e.g., Mayrhofr & Waldmann, 2014; Talmy, 1988; White 2013; Wolff, 2007). This intuitive notion of causality is thought to root in specific bodily experiences acquired in development, namely when applying bodily force to change something physically by direct contact. Currently, however, developmental studies are lacking within the dispositional framework. The present study examines the developmental origins of a dispositional stance in causal judgment. Particularly, it aims at comparing the adoption of an agent-patient relationship when judging phenomena in both physical and biological domain. We examined children of three age groups (5-6-years-old, 7-8-years-old, 11-12-years-old) with an unspeeded sentence verification task, assessing their judgments of a biological event and a physical event. Apart from the type of interaction (stitch resulting in a swelling/collision resulting in a bump) and the type of interacting entities (living/inert), the events were matched in all aspects. After watching the events, children heard a series of 14 sentence pairs, covering the central aspects of dispositional causality (e.g., assumption of asymmetric forces, agent-patient role distribution, antagonistic interaction, goal-directed production of effect). The children judged the appropriateness of each statement. Results indicate that children of all age groups indeed adopt a dispositional stance when judging causal interactions in both physical and biological domain. Moreover, we found that the tendency to adopt a dispositional stance appears to get more pronounced with increasing age.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Developmental Psychology

UniBE Contributor:

Schneider, Julia; Abbaspour Chinjani, Sufi and Cacchione, Beatrix


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology




Julia Schneider

Date Deposited:

12 Jun 2018 10:46

Last Modified:

23 Oct 2019 18:49





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