Causal discovery and the problem of psychological interventions

Markus I. Eronen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Finding causes is a central goal in psychological research. In this paper, I argue based on the interventionist approach to causal discovery that the search for psychological causes faces great obstacles. Psychological interventions are likely to be fat-handed: they change several variables simultaneously, and it is not known to what extent such interventions give leverage for causal inference. Moreover, due to problems of measurement, the degree to which an intervention was fat-handed, or more generally, what the intervention in fact did, is difficult to reliably estimate. A further complication is that the causal findings in psychology are typically made at the population level, and such findings do not allow inferences to individual-level causal relationships. I also discuss the implications of these problems for research, as well as various ways of addressing them, such as focusing more on the discovery of robust but non-causal patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100785
Number of pages8
JournalNew Ideas in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Dec-2020


  • Causality
  • Causal discovery
  • Robustness
  • Interventions
  • Interventionism

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