A quantum probability account of individual differences in causal reasoning


We use quantum probability (QP) theory to investigate individual differences in causal reasoning. By analyzing data sets from Rehder (2014) on comparative judgments, and from Rehder & Waldmann (2016) on absolute judgments, we show that a QP model can both account for individual differences in causal judgments, and why these judgments sometimes violate the properties of causal Bayes nets. We implement this and previously proposed models of causal reasoning (including classical probability models) within the same hierarchical Bayesian inferential framework to provide a detailed comparison between these models, including computing Bayes factors. Analysis of the inferred parameters of the QP model illustrates how these can be interpreted in terms of putative cognitive mechanisms of causal reasoning. Additionally, we implement a latent classification mechanism that identifies subcategories of reasoners based on properties of the inferred cognitive process, rather than post hoc clustering. The QP model also provides a parsimonious explanation for aggregate behavior, which alternatively can only be explained by a mixture of multiple existing models. Investigating individual differences through the lens of a QP model reveals simple but strong alternatives to existing explanations for the dichotomies often observed in how people make causal inferences. These alternative explanations arise from the cognitive interpretation of the parameters and structure of the quantum probability model.


Mistry, P., Pothos, E., Vandekerckhove, J., & Trueblood, J. (2018). A quantum probability account of individual differences in causal reasoning. Journal of Mathematical Psychology, 87, 76–97.


    title   = {{A} quantum probability account of individual differences in causal reasoning},
    author  = {Mistry, Percy and Pothos, Emmanuel and Vandekerckhove, Joachim and Trueblood, Jennifer},
    year    = {2018},
    journal = {Journal of Mathematical Psychology},
    volume  = {87},
    pages   = {76--97}