Inferential Causality

How do researchers infer the existence of an invisible, and therefore directly unmeasurable psychic structure behind human behaviour and still remain scientific?

In the cognitive approach to psychology and in some subfields such as personality and social psychology experimental investigators cannot be satisfied with environmental control of stimuli as the only source for causation of behaviour unless they wish to limit themselves to facts which are entirely rudimentary; rather, some researchers infer the existence of a psychic causal structure behind the behaviour, if the behaviour is to be understood at all when it occurs under specific stimulus conditions.

For example, cognitive psychologists might compare the responses of Alzheimer’s patients and normal subjects to memorized lists of words under different observable conditions and then render, by inference, a structural account of the memory (psychic) impairment of Alzheimer’s disease. Do Alzheimer’s patients have trouble transferring words from short-term memory to long-term memory, or do they make the transfer, but fail to retrieve the words from long-term memory when required?

Even though the causes for behaviour are said to be among psychic structures we normally associate with consciousness, such as memory, free will is by no means suggested by most of these investigators. The relationships among the inferred psychic structures tend to be mechanistic; that is, their operations are automatic and without purpose. For this reason, inferential causality still appeals to the current scientific spirit.

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