The Importance of Discovery in Children's Causal Learning from Interventions

Front Psychol. 2010 Nov 2:1:176. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2010.00176. eCollection 2010.


Four-year-olds were more accurate at learning causal structures from their own actions when they were allowed to act first and then observe an experimenter act, as opposed to observing first and then acting on the environment. Children who discovered the causal efficacy of events (as opposed to confirming the efficacy of events that they observed another discover) were also more accurate than children who only observed the experimenter act on the environment; accuracy in the confirmation and observation conditions was at similar levels. These data suggest that while children learn from acting on the environment, not all self-generated action produces equivalent causal learning.

Keywords: causal learning; interventions; self-generated action.