Serial Causation: Occasion Setting in a Causal Induction Task

Mem Cognit. 2000 Oct;28(7):1213-30. doi: 10.3758/bf03211822.


The temporal relations among candidate causes were studied in a causal induction task using a design that is known to produce occasion setting in animal learning preparations. For some subset of the observations, one event, the occasion setter, was accompanied by another event, the conditional cause; for another subset of the observations, the conditional cause occurred alone. The efficacy of the conditional cause depended on whether it was or was not accompanied by the occasion setter. Participants used the occasion setter to modulate their effect expectancy to the conditional cause when the events were presented serially, but not simultaneously. Current causal induction models are unable to account for the full range of effects that we observed; the relative roles of time, attention, and cue distinctiveness are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Association Learning*
  • Attention*
  • Causality*
  • Chemical Phenomena
  • Chemistry
  • Humans
  • Problem Solving
  • Time Perception*