An Assessment of the Role of Individual Differences and Variable Salience in Normative Causal Reasoning
Abstract: Normative causal reasoning is essential for proper decision-making to be conducted, which is highly relevant in areas such as personnel assessment and predictions of work performance. However, research has found consistent violations of the Markov Assumption, a defining aspect of normative causal models that indicates which nodes in a causal network that are conditionally independent of one another. The purpose of the study was to investigate the role of Need for Cognition (NFC) in Markov violations, and whether violations were affected by variable salience. Participants (N = 64) made causal inferences in causal chain networks across eight vignettes and answered a translated measurement of NFC. Results of a four-way ANOVA revealed that although participants consistently violated the Markov Assumption, violations were unaffected by NFC scores and salience. A significant medium-sized interaction effect showed that participants committed more Markov violations when the mediating variable in causal chains was present as opposed to absent, suggesting that violations are influenced by certain situational factors. Lastly, no correlation was found between Markov violations and NFC, although conclusions are limited given that analyses indicated a restriction in range for NFC. Explaining individual differences remain an important aspect of research on Markov violations, and potential directions which future researchers can take are discussed.
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