Understanding "why": The role of causality in cognition
Tobias Gerstenberg

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Talk has been re-scheduled to the next Colloquium. Please check for updates!


Humans have a remarkable ability to figure out what happened and why. In this talk, I will shed light on this ability from multiple angles. I will present a computational framework for modeling causal explanations in terms of counterfactual simulations, and several lines of experiments testing this framework in the domain of intuitive physics. The model predicts people's causal judgments about a variety of physical scenes, including dynamic collision events, complex situations that involve multiple causes, omissions as causes, and causal responsibility for a system's stability. It also captures the cognitive processes underlying these judgments as revealed by spontaneous eye-movements. More recently, we have applied our computational framework to explain multisensory integration. I will show how people's inferences about what happened are well-accounted for by a model that integrates visual and auditory evidence through approximate physical simulations.