How do people make causal judgments about other’s decisions? Prior work has argued that judging causation requires going beyond what actually happened and simulating what would have happened in a relevant counterfactual situation. Here, we extend the counterfactual simulation model of causal judgments for physical events, to explain judgments about other agents’ decisions. In our experiments, an agent chooses what path to take to reach a goal. In Experiment 1, participants either made hypothetical judgments about whether the agent would succeed were it to take a certain path, or counterfactual judgments about whether the agent would have succeeded had it taken a different path. In Experiment 2, participants made causal judgments about whether the agent succeeded or failed because of the path that it took. Our computational model accurately captured participants’ judgments in both experiments and we find that causal judgments are better explained by counterfactuals rather than hypotheticals.
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