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Naive analysis of food web dynamics: a study of causal judgment about complex physical systems

White, Peter Anthony 2000. Naive analysis of food web dynamics: a study of causal judgment about complex physical systems. Cognitive Science 24 (4) , pp. 605-650. 10.1016/S0364-0213(00)00032-X

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Abstract

When people make judgments about the effects of a perturbation on populations of species in a food web, their judgments exhibit the dissipation effect: a tendency to judge that effects of the perturbation weaken or dissipate as they spread out through the food web from the locus of the perturbation. In the present research evidence for two more phenomena is reported. Terminal locations are points in the food web with just a single connection to the rest of the web. Judged changes tended to be higher for species at terminal locations than for species the same distance from the perturbation but at nonterminal locations. Branches are points in the web where a route splits into two or more routes. Judged changes tended to be lower for species following branching points than for species the same distance from the perturbation but not following branching points. It is proposed that the findings can be explained as effects of a mental model employing concepts of influence and resistance. Under this model a perturbation is a change in energy level at a point in the system that acts as an influence affecting the rest of the system. The basic concepts in this model are domain-general and on that basis it is predicted that the dissipation effect should be found in judgments of any physical system to which notions of influence and resistance can be applied.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN: 0364-0213
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 04:09
URI: http://orca-mwe.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/33585

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