Many philosophical theories of causation are egalitarian, rejecting a distinction between causes and mere causal conditions. We sought to determine the extent to which people's causal judgments discriminate, selecting as causes counternormal events—those that violate norms of some kind—while rejecting non-violators. We found significant selectivity of this sort. Moreover, priming that encouraged more egalitarian judgments had little effect on subjects. We also found that omissions are as likely as actions to be judged as causes, and that counternormative selectivity appears to apply equally to actions and omissions.

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Philosophical Psychology
Department of Philosophy

Clarke, R. (Randolph), Shepherd, J, Stigall, J. (John), Waller, R.R. (Robyn Repko), & Zarpentine, C. (Chris). (2015). Causation, norms, and omissions: A study of causal judgments. Philosophical Psychology, 28(2), 279–293. doi:10.1080/09515089.2013.815099