It's Not My Fault, Your Honor, I'm Only the Enabler

In Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, Vol. 29, 2007, Extended Abstract. Nashville, TN, USA: pp. 1755 (2007)
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According to the mental model theory, causes and enablers differ in meaning, and therefore in their logical consequences (Goldvarg & Johnson-Laird, 2001). They are consistent with different possibilities. Recent psychological studies have argued to the contrary, and suggested that linguistic cues guide this distinction (Kuhnmünch & Beller, 2005). The issue is important because neither British nor American law recognizes this distinction (e.g., Roberts & Zuckerman, 2004). Yet, in our view, it is central to human conceptions of causality. Hence, in two experiments, we examined our participants’ ability to distinguish between causes and enablers in scenarios describing the actions of two agents and a subsequent outcome, e.g.: ‘Mary threw a lighted cigarette into a bush. Just as the cigarette was going out, Laura deliberately threw petrol on it. The resulting fire burnt down her neighbor’s house.’ Here Mary enabled the fire to occur, whereas Laura caused the fire to occur.
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