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Mem Cognit. 2003 Jan;31(1):155-65.

From symptoms to causes: diversity effects in diagnostic reasoning.

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Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8205, USA.


A single causal agent can often give rise to a cascade of consequences that can be envisioned as a branching pathway in which symptoms are the terminal nodes. In three studies, we investigated whether reasoning about root causes on the basis of such symptoms would conform to a diversity effect analogous to that found in inductive reasoning about properties of hierarchically organized categories. A strong diversity effect was found both for reasoning about medical diseases that drew on existing background knowledge and for reasoning that did not. Specifically, the presence of a root cause was more likely to be induced when the symptoms present were further apart in the branching structure.

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