Three studies examine the hypothesis that people spontaneously (i.e., unintentionally and without awareness of doing so) infer causes (the Spontaneous Causal Inference, or SCI, hypothesis). Using a cued-recall paradigm, Study 1 examines whether SCIs occur and Study 2 allows for a comparison between implicitly inferred and explicitly mentioned causes. Study 3 examines whether SCIs can be fully explained in terms of spreading activation to general, abstract schemes. It is suggested that STIs (e.g., Winter & Uleman, 1984), and spontaneous predicting inferences (e.g., McKoon & Ratclif, 1986a, 1986b), may be better understood in their relation to SCIs.
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This research was partly supported by a Fulbright post-doctoral grant to Hassin and by a Public Health Service Grant R01-MH60767 to Bargh.