Chapter 9: Are There Rival Causes
A rival cause is a plausible alternative explanation that can explain why a certain outcome
Indicators of causal relations
o X leads to..
o X influences..
o X is linked to..
o X deters..
o X increases the likelihood..
o X determines..
o X is associated with..
o X has the effect of..
Detecting rival causes can help us better react to causal conclusions encountered in..
o A) our everyday personal relationships
o B) past or ongoing world events
o C) results of research studies
Many kinds of events are open to explanation by rival causes
Experts can examine the same evidence and discover different causes to explain it
Most communicators will provide you with only their favoured causes; the critical reader or
listener must generate rival causes
Generating rival causes is a creative process; usually, such causes will not be obvious
The certainty of a particular causal claim is inversely related to the number of plausible rival
causes. Hence, identifying the multiple rival causes gives the critical thinker the proper sense of
Detecting rival causes
o Can I think of any other way to interpret the evidence?
o What else might have caused this act or these findings?
o If I looked at this from another POV, what might I see as important causes?
o If this interpretation is incorrect, what other interpretation might make sense?
Contributory causes – causes that help to create a total set of conditions necessary for the event
Causal oversimplification fallacy – explaining an event by relying on causal factors that are
insufficient to account for the event or by overemphasizing the role of one or more of these
Confusion of cause and effect fallacy – confusing the cause with the effect of an event or failing
to recognize that the two events may be influencing each other
Neglect of a common cause fallacy – failure to recognize that two events may be related
because of the effects of a common third factor Post hoc fallacy – assuming that a particular event, B, is caused by another event, A, simply
because B follows A in time
Fundamental attribution error – we typically overestimate the importance of personal
tendencies relative to situati