Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


How do people explain events with multiple possible causes? Past research has indicated that perceivers are usually content with discovering single, sufficient causes for observed events as opposed to considering multiple causation. We argue that this tendency for information search to be directed toward the role of single causes is, primarily, a manifestation of low involvement processing; perceivers will search for information relevant to multiple possible causes when they are suitably motivated to arrive at accurate causal conclusions.;Three experiments were conducted to test this hypothesis. High involvement subjects were told that the purpose of the study was to assess their ability to determine accurately why events occur. These instructions were designed to increases the "costs" associated with inaccurate judgments. Low involvement subjects were told that there were no right or wrong approaches to determining the causes of events.;All subjects were provided with an event and given the opportunity to search for additional information about why the event occurred. The basic prediction in these studies was that low involvement subjects would be content with identifying the contribution of single sufficient causes for the events. Thus, when a likely cause was "known" (Experiment 1) or "hypothesized" (Experiments 2 and 3) to exist, low involvement subjects were expected to seek information about the role of the likely cause, as opposed to seeking information relevant to other potentially relevant causes. High involvement subjects were expected to search for information relevant to all possible causes, in order to achieve a complete (rather than sufficient) causal account.;Experments 1 and 3 utilized a structured information search methodology, whereby subjects were allowed to select questions pertinent to three nonexclusive causes. In Experiment 2, subjects were allowed to generate their own questions relevant to why the event occurred.;The results provided some support for predictions. Moreover, the current research suggested that (1) the complexity and plausibility of "known" causes, (2) cues suggesting alternative causes, and (3) the extremity and familiarity of events are potentially important variables that influence the search for information about the causes of events. Discussion focuses on limitations of the present research and future research directions. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.)



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