Avoidance of causality outside experiments: Hypotheses from cognitive dissonance reduction

Publikation: Beitrag in FachzeitschriftForschungsartikelBeigetragenBegutachtung


The avoidance of causality in the design, analysis and interpretation of non-experimental studies has often been criticised as an untenable scientific stance, because theories are based on causal relations (and not associations) and a rich set of methodological tools for causal analysis has been developed in recent decades. Psychology researchers (n = 106 with complete data) participated in an online study presenting a causal statement about the results of a fictitious paper on the potential effect of drinking clear water for years on the risk of dementia. Two randomised groups of participants were then asked to reflect on the conflict between the goal of approaching a causal answer and the prevailing norm of avoiding doing so. One of the two groups was also instructed to think about possible benefits of addressing causality. Both groups then responded to a list of 19 items about attitudes to causal questions in science. A control group did this without reflecting on conflict or benefits. Free-text assessments were also collected during reflection, giving some indication of how and why causality is avoided. We condense the exploratory findings of this study into five new hypotheses about the how and why, filtered through what can be explained by cognitive dissonance reduction theory. These concern the cost of addressing causality, the variety of ways in which dissonance can be reduced, the need for profound intervention through teaching and social aspects. Predictions are derived from the hypotheses for confirmation trials in future studies and recommendations for teaching causality. Open data are provided for researchers’ own analyses.


Seiten (von - bis)368504241235505
FachzeitschriftScience progress
PublikationsstatusElektronische Veröffentlichung vor Drucklegung - 3 Apr. 2024

Externe IDs

PubMed 38567445
ORCID /0000-0001-7646-8265/work/159170607


ASJC Scopus Sachgebiete


  • Causality, Cognitive Dissonance, Humans, avoidance, causal effects, cognitive dissonance, non-experimental studies, teaching, Random Allocation