Inference and coherence in causal-based artifact categorization

Guillermo Puebla, Sergio E. Chaigneau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


In four experiments, we tested conditions under which artifact concepts support inference and coherence in causal categorization. In all four experiments, participants categorized scenarios in which we systematically varied information about artifacts' associated design history, physical structure, user intention, user action and functional outcome, and where each property could be specified as intact, compromised or not observed. Consistently across experiments, when participants received complete information (i.e., when all properties were observed), they categorized based on individual properties and did not show evidence of using coherence to categorize. In contrast, when the state of some property was not observed, participants gave evidence of using available information to infer the state of the unobserved property, which increased the value of the available information for categorization. Our data offers answers to longstanding questions regarding artifact categorization, such as whether there are underlying causal models for artifacts, which properties are part of them, whether design history is an artifact's causal essence, and whether physical appearance or functional outcome is the most central artifact property.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-65
Number of pages16
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


  • Artifacts
  • Causal inference
  • Causal-based categorization
  • Coherence effect
  • Essentialism


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