In contrast to Piaget’s formulation of the development of causality, adults often generate precausal reasoning in an attempt to understand natural phenomena. Such precausal reasoning is characterized in terms of agency, a concept that plays a central role in our understanding of causality. In this context, three issues are examined – the normative model of causality and heuristics, the distinction between causes and enabling conditions, and the perception of causality. It is proposed that causal reasoning is triggered by the detection of anomaly, presupposing the recognition of an ordinary pattern in natural phenomena. This anomaly is interpreted in terms of agency. The proposal is supported through reference to research on students’ misconceptions. Finally, the implications for conceptual change with respect to causal reasoning are discussed. It is proposed that it is not a causal understanding mechanism that changes with development but, rather, the perception of anomalies that changes as we acquire knowledge of causal relations, producing developmental changes in causal reasoning.

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