Lombrozo, T., & Vasilyeva, N. (2017). Causal explanation. In M. Waldmann (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of Causal Reasoning (pp. 415–432) . Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Explanation and causation are intimately related. Explanations often appeal to causes, and causal claims are often answers to implicit or explicit questions about why or how something occurred. In this chapter we consider what research on explanation can tell us about causal reasoning. In particular, we review an emerging body of work suggesting that explanatory considerations – such as the simplicity or scope of a causal hypothesis – can systematically influence causal inference and learning. We also discuss proposed distinctions among types of explanations and review their differential effects on causal reasoning and representation. Finally, we consider the relationship between explanations and causal mechanisms and raise important questions for future research.