[CSRR] Invited Talk: Tobi Gerstenberg

Tobi Gerstenberg: "The counterfactual simulation model: A novel approach to understanding causal explanations"


How do we make causal judgments? And how do we choose what causal expression to use in order to best describe what happened? I will present a computational framework for modeling causal explanations in terms of counterfactual contrasts defined over intuitive domain theories. Focusing on people's intuitive understanding of physics, I will present several lines of experiments testing this framework. The counterfactual simulation model (CSM) 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. I will discuss how the CSM helps us better understand the mapping between causal events in the world and the words people use to describe them.


Tobias Gerstenberg is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. He leads the Causality in Cognition Lab, which studies the role of causality in people's understanding of the world, and of each other. His research is highly interdisciplinary, combining ideas from philosophy, linguistics, computer science, and the legal sciences to better understand higher-level cognitive phenomena such as causal inference and moral judgment. His group's research uses a variety of methods that include computational modeling, online experiments, eye-tracking experiments, as well as developmental studies with children. Professor Gerstenberg's work has appeared in top journals including Psychological Review, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Psychological Science, Cognitive Psychology, Cognition, and Cognitive Science.