Skip to yearly menu bar Skip to main content

Workshop: Causal Inference & Machine Learning: Why now?

Building Object-based Causal Programs for Human-like Generalization

Bonan Zhao · Chris Lucas


We present a novel task that measures how people generalize objects' causal powers based on observing a single (Experiment 1) or a few (Experiment 2) causal interactions between object pairs. We propose a computational modeling framework that can synthesize human-like generalization patterns in our task setting, and sheds light on how people may navigate the compositional space of possible causal functions and categories efficiently. Our modeling framework combines a causal function generator that makes use of agent and recipient objects' features and relations, and a Bayesian non-parametric inference process to govern the degree of similarity-based generalization. Our model has a natural “resource-rational” variant that outperforms a naive Bayesian account in describing participants, in particular reproducing a generalization-order effect and causal asymmetry observed in our behavioral experiments. We argue that this modeling framework provides a computationally plausible mechanism for real world causal generalization.

Chat is not available.