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Causal illusions in children when the outcome is frequent

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      Abstract

      Causal illusions occur when people perceive a causal relation between two events that are actually unrelated. One factor that has been shown to promote these mistaken beliefs is the outcome probability. Thus, people tend to overestimate the strength of a causal relation when the potential consequence (i.e. the outcome) occurs with a high probability ( outcome-density bias). Given that children and adults differ in several important features involved in causal judgment, including prior knowledge and basic cognitive skills, developmental studies can be considered an outstanding approach to detect and further explore the psychological processes and mechanisms underlying this bias. However, the outcome density bias has been mainly explored in adulthood, and no previous evidence for this bias has been reported in children. Thus, the purpose of this study was to extend outcome-density bias research to childhood. In two experiments, children between 6 and 8 years old were exposed to two similar setups, both showing a non-contingent relation between the potential cause and the outcome. These two scenarios differed only in the probability of the outcome, which could either be high or low. Children judged the relation between the two events to be stronger in the high probability of the outcome setting, revealing that, like adults, they develop causal illusions when the outcome is frequent.

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      The many faces of configural processing.

      Adults' expertise in recognizing faces has been attributed to configural processing. We distinguish three types of configural processing: detecting the first-order relations that define faces (i.e. two eyes above a nose and mouth), holistic processing (glueing the features together into a gestalt), and processing second-order relations (i.e. the spacing among features). We provide evidence for their separability based on behavioral marker tasks, their sensitivity to experimental manipulations, and their patterns of development. We note that inversion affects each type of configural processing, not just sensitivity to second-order relations, and we review evidence on whether configural processing is unique to faces.
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        Judgment of contingency in depressed and nondepressed students: sadder but wiser?

        How are humans' subjective judgments of contingencies related to objective contingencies? Work in social psychology and human contingency learning predicts that the greater the frequency of desired outcomes, the greater people's judgments of contingency will be. Second, the learned helplessness theory of depression provides both a strong and a weak prediction concerning the linkage between subjective and objective contingencies. According to the strong prediction, depressed individuals should underestimate the degree of contingency between their responses and outcomes relative to the objective degree of contingency. According to the weak prediction, depressed individuals merely should judge that there is a smaller degree of contingency between their responses and outcomes than nondepressed individuals should. In addition, the present investigation deduced a new strong prediction from the helplessness theory: Nondepressed individuals should overestimate the degree of contingency between their responses and outcomes relative to the objective degree of contingency. In the experiments, depressed and nondepressed students were present with one of a series of problems varying in the actual degree of contingency. In each problem, subjects estimated the degree of contingency between their responses (pressing or not pressing a button) and an environmental outcome (onset of a green light). Performance on a behavioral task and estimates of the conditional probability of green light onset associated with the two response alternatives provided additional measures for assessing beliefs about contingencies. Depressed students' judgments of contingency were surprisingly accurate in all four experiments. Nondepressed students, on the other hand, overestimated the degree of contingency between their responses and outcomes when noncontingent outcomes were frequent and/or desired and underestimated the degree of contingency when contingent outcomes were undesired. Thus, predictions derived from social psychology concerning the linkage between subjective and objective contingencies were confirmed for nondepressed students but not for depressed students. Further, the predictions of helplessness theory received, at best, minimal support. The learned helplessness and self-serving motivational bias hypotheses are evaluated as explanations of the results. In addition, parallels are drawn between the present results and phenomena in cognitive psychology, social psychology, and animal learning. Finally, implications for cognitive illusions in normal people, appetitive helplessness, judgment of contingency between stimuli, and learning theory are discussed.
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          Why faces are and are not special: an effect of expertise.

          Recognition memory for faces is hampered much more by inverted presentation than is memory for any other material so far examined. The present study demonstrates that faces are not unique with regard to this vulnerability to inversion. The experiments also attempt to isolate the source of the inversion effect. In one experiment, use of stimuli (landscapes) in which spatial relations among elements are potentially important distinguishing features is shown not to guarantee a large inversion effect. Two additional experiments show that for dog experts sufficiently knowledgeable to individuate dogs of the same breed, memory for photographs of dogs of that breed is as disrupted by inversion as is face recognition. A final experiment indicates that the effect of orientation on memory for faces does not depend on inability to identify single features of these stimuli upside down. These experiments are consistent with the view that experts represent items in memory in terms of distinguishing features of a different kind than do novices. Speculations as to the type of feature used and neuropsychological and developmental implications of this accomplishment are offered.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            Departamento de Fundamentos y Métodos de la Psicología, University of Deusto, Bilbao, Spain
            Universidad de Granada, SPAIN
            Author notes

            Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

            Contributors
            ORCID: http://orcid.org/0000-0001-6645-0643, Role: Conceptualization, Role: Formal analysis, Role: Investigation, Role: Methodology, Role: Writing – original draft, Role: Writing – review & editing
            Role: Conceptualization, Role: Methodology, Role: Writing – review & editing
            Role: Conceptualization, Role: Funding acquisition, Role: Methodology, Role: Writing – review & editing
            Role: Editor
            Journal
            PLoS One
            PLoS ONE
            plos
            plosone
            PLoS ONE
            Public Library of Science (San Francisco, CA USA )
            1932-6203
            12 September 2017
            2017
            : 12
            : 9
            28898294 5595306 10.1371/journal.pone.0184707 PONE-D-16-50271
            © 2017 Moreno-Fernández et al

            This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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            Figures: 6, Tables: 0, Pages: 21
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            Funding
            Funded by: Dirección General de Investigación of the Spanish Government
            Award ID: PSI2016-78818-R
            Award Recipient :
            Funded by: Basque Government
            Award ID: IT955-16
            Award Recipient :
            Support for this research was provided by Grant PSI2016-78818-R AEI/FEDER from Agencia Estatal de Investigación of the Spanish Government (AEI) and Fondo Europeo de Desarrollo Regional (FEDER), as well as Grant IT955-16 from the Basque Government, both granted to Helena Matute. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
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