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Investigating Causal Effects of Mental Events in Cognitive Neuroscience

Vinding, Mikkel C. (2018) Investigating Causal Effects of Mental Events in Cognitive Neuroscience. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Mental causation is a predominantly theoretical topic rather than a topic studied in the laboratory. The purpose of this paper is to outline a general approach for studying mental causation by empirical means for philosophers and scientists interested in the topic. The aim is to outline how we can infer mental causation by empirical methods given an unknown solution to the mind-body problem. The approach is based on the principles of causal inference to find causal relations among observed variables used in all branches of science. With these principles, it is possible to estimate the causal effects of mental events: Make an experimental manipulation of a mental event, control confounding variables, and estimate causal effects on the outcome. The caveat is that we cannot separate the causal effects of a mental event from the physical base of the mental event, independent of whether we assume mental events can be reduced to their physical base. A challenge to estimating causal effects of mental events is that measured physical variables, such as electrophysiological potentials from the brain, might reflect processes that are part of “higher-order” phenomena, such as mental events. This means that controlling “downwards” for confounding variables is challenging. It is, however, not impossible. It also means that inferring non-mental causes of action cannot be done by measuring only physical variables alone. Keeping the mind-body problem in mind when designing experiments, it is possible to infer mental causation.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Vinding, Mikkel C.mikkel.vinding@ki.se0000-0002-7954-2886
Keywords: Mental Causation, Causal Inference, Cognitive Neuroscience, Mental Events, Mind-Body Problem
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
Specific Sciences > Biology > Neuroscience
Specific Sciences > Psychology/Psychiatry
Depositing User: Dr. Mikkel C. Vinding
Date Deposited: 19 Jul 2018 10:20
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2018 10:20
Item ID: 14507
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
Specific Sciences > Biology > Neuroscience
Specific Sciences > Psychology/Psychiatry
Date: 18 July 2018
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/14507

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