Causal Arguments

The inductive arguments above relied on the establishment of similarities between two events, ideas, or things. Causal arguments, which may be used to figure out the probable cause of an effect or event, rely instead on finding a key difference. Why might it be important to determine cause? If you believe that one event (a cause) is somehow related to another event (an effect), you may want to either reproduce that relation, which would again cause the effect, or in some cases prevent the relation form recurring, thereby preventing the effect.

For example, every time you study hard for a test, you get a good grade. If you want to keep getting good grades, you want to know if there is a link between studying hard and getting good grades. When you can determine cause and effect, you can repeat the effect. In this case, that means figuring out that the studying really does result in good grades. To continue to get good grades, therefore, you need to continue to study hard for your tests.

On the other hand, what if you have been studying and getting good grades and there is a test coming up? You are busy with other things and don't study for it. You get a D on the test. The argument goes like this:

Every time I have a test coming up, I study for it and get good grades. This time, I didn't study, and I got a D.

If you don't want to get more Ds in the future, you will want to know what caused the bad grade, preventing the unwanted result by preventing the cause. What is the key difference in the argument? Studying. In this case, the key difference means if you don't want bad grades, you must study. Remember that in order to determine cause, an argument must be formed that looks for a key difference between two otherwise similar events.

Here is another example:

You had a stomachache on Thursday and you are trying to figure out why. Every morning for breakfast you eat bran cereal with skim milk and a banana. But, Thursday you were out of milk and had toast for breakfast instead. By midmorning, you had a painful stomachache. You picked up milk on the way home from work and had your usual breakfast on Friday. The stomachache did not occur on Friday. Nothing else in your routine was out of the ordinary.

What caused the stomachache? Chances are, it was the toast you ate for breakfast. It is the key difference. Every morning when you eat your regular breakfast, you feel fine. On the one morning when you ate toast instead, you got a stomachache. Every example is not this easy, however. Sometimes the key difference is difficult to spot and requires an inference based on the information presented in the argument.

Real-life situations can get complicated. Our lives and the world around us are affected by thousands of details, making the finding of one key difference difficult. That said, if there is a strong likelihood of causation and there are no other obvious causes, you can make a convincing causal argument. But you need to have the following:

■ The effect must occur after the cause. This sounds like common sense, but there are many arguments that place the effect before the cause.


You are blamed for a computer problem at work. However, you did not use the computer until after the problem was detected. The argument against you has no strength.

■ You need more than just a strong correlation to prove causation. Coincidence can often explain what might first appear to be cause and effect.


Every time you wear your blue sweater, your team wins the game. Can you determine that if you always wear the sweater, your team will always win? The answer is no, because there is no causation. Nothing about your wearing the sweater could have caused a certain outcome in a game.

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The Art Of Cold Reading

The Art Of Cold Reading

Today I'm going to teach you a fundamental Mentalism technique known as 'cold reading'. Cold reading is a technique employed by mentalists and charlatans and by charlatan I refer to psychics, mediums, fortune tellers or anyone that claims false abilities that is used to give the illusion that the person has some form of super natural power.

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