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Explaining 'Explaining Away'
March 1993 (vol. 15 no. 3)
pp. 287-292

'Explaining away' is a common pattern of reasoning in which the confirmation of one cause of an observed or believed event reduces the need to invoke alternative causes. The opposite of explaining away also an occur, where the confirmation of one cause increases belief in another. A general qualitative probabilistic analysis of intercausal reasoning is provided and the property of the interaction among the causes (product synergy) that determines which form of reasoning is appropriate is identified. Product synergy extends the qualitative probabilistic network (QPN) formalism to support qualitative intercausal inference about the directions of change in probabilistic belief. The intercausal relation also justifies Occam's razor, facilitating pruning in the search for likely diagnoses.

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Index Terms:
causal explanation; general qualitative probabilistic analysis; intercausal reasoning; product synergy; qualitative probabilistic network; inference; probabilistic belief; Occam's razor; belief maintenance; explanation; inference mechanisms; probability; uncertainty handling
Citation:
M.P. Wellman, M. Henrion, "Explaining 'Explaining Away'," IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence, vol. 15, no. 3, pp. 287-292, March 1993, doi:10.1109/34.204911
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