Causal knowledge and categories: The effects of causal beliefs on categorization, induction, and similarity

Bob Rehder, Reid Hastie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Despite the recent interest in the theoretical knowledge embedded in human representations of categories, little research has systematically manipulated the structure of such knowledge. Across four experiments this study assessed the effects of interattribute causal laws on a number of category-based judgments. The authors found that (a) any attribute occupying a central position in a network of causal relationships comes to dominate category membership, (b) combinations of attribute values are important to category membership to the extent they jointly confirm or violate the causal laws, and (c) the presence of causal knowledge affects the induction of new properties to the category. These effects were a result of the causal laws, rather than the empirical correlations produced by those laws. Implications for the doctrine of psychological essentialism, similarity-based models of categorization, and the representation of causal knowledge are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-360
Number of pages38
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2001


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Developmental Neuroscience

Cite this