The development of causal reasoning
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Description: This chapter in M. Waldmann (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of Causal Reasoning. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, explores the development of causal reasoning in early childhood. We review research on the development of causal reasoning in infancy, toddlerhood, and the preschool years with the broad goals of (1) understanding the origin of our mature causal reasoning abilities and (2) discussing how the process of causal reasoning and discovery may change throughout early childhood. Research on causal reasoning in infancy and toddlerhood provides evidence for both domain-specific (object motion, agent action) as well as domain-general (covariation information) roots to causal reasoning. More recent research suggests that representations of agent’s actions may play a particularly important role in the development of causal reasoning. However, independent from the precise origin of causal reasoning, our review on studies with preschool-aged children leads to the conclusion that by about four-years of age children are integrating domain-general covariation information with domain-specific prior knowledge, as well as with causal inductive constraints and more general inductive biases, to rapidly and effectively represent causal structure.