Covariation and quantifier polarity: What determines causal attribution in vignettes?
Majid, A., Sanford, A. J., & Pickering, M. J.
Covariation and quantifier polarity: What determines causal attribution in vignettes? Cognition, 99
(1), 35-51. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2004.12.004.
Tests of causal attribution often use verbal vignettes, with covariation information provided through statements quantified with natural language expressions. The effect of covariation information has typically been taken to show that set size information affects attribution. However, recent research shows that quantifiers provide information about discourse focus as well as covariation information. In the attribution literature, quantifiers are used to depict covariation, but they confound quantity and focus. In four experiments, we show that focus explains all (Experiment 1) or some (Experiments 2, 3 and 4) of the impact of covariation information on the attributions made, confirming the importance of the confound. Attribution experiments using vignettes that present covariation information with natural language quantifiers may overestimate the impact of set size information, and ignore the impact of quantifier-induced focus.