Causal status and coherence in causal-based categorization

Bob Rehder, ShinWoo Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research has documented two effects of interfeature causal knowledge on classification. A causal status effect occurs when features that are causes are more important to category membership than their effects. A coherence effect occurs when combinations of features that are consistent with causal laws provide additional evidence of category membership. In this study, we found that stronger causal relations led to a weaker causal status effect and a stronger coherence effect (Experiment 1), that weaker alternative causes led to stronger causal status and coherence effects (Experiment 2), and that "essentialized" categories led to a stronger causal status effect (Experiment 3), albeit only for probabilistic causal links (Experiment 4). In addition, the causal status effect was mediated by features' subjective category validity, the probability they occur in category members. These findings were consistent with a generative model of categorization but inconsistent with an alternative model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1171-1206
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2010


  • Categorization
  • Causal knowledge
  • Causal model theory
  • Conceptual representation
  • Generative model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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