As a layperson, I am interested about the scientific method but whenever I search it online I get endless results about how to formulate and test hypotheses for the purpose of writing a scientific paper.

I'm trying to find the term of the process by which people make and test informal theories and hypotheses during their daily lives.

Example A young child touches an unfamiliar object and, purely by coincidence, there is a distant clap of thunder. The child 'hypothesized' that the touch caused the clap of thunder. This is now testable because the child can repeat the experiment.

If I want to read more about this in psychology, what do I put in my search engine to avoid getting thousands of results about null hypotheses and t-tests?


2 Answers 2


One umbrella term is causal reasoning, though this is a bit broader since there are theories of causal reasoning that are not about hypothesis testing.

A Google Scholar search for "causal reasoning psychology" generates several hundred thousand hits, and the first page is full of relevant papers.

Getting more specific, Klayman & Ha (1987) wrote an influential article about the kinds of hypothesis testing you describe. Looking at the papers that cite that article might give you some additional leads into the literature.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I'll spend some time exploring your leads. It's clear that in many cases I need access to online publications in order to read more than the abstracts but I may be able to arrange that. I'll be dropping in from time to time to see if there are other developments. Again, many thanks. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 23:42

This is actually called abductive reasoning. As for how it the hypotheses are generated, one way is through analogical matching and inference (search google scholar for Analogico-deductive reasoning, for example).


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