Three studies examine the hypothesis that people spontaneously (i.e., unintentionally and without awareness of doing so) infer causes (the Spontaneous Causal Inference, or SCI, hypothesis). Using a cued-recall paradigm, Study 1 examines whether SCIs occur and Study 2 allows for a comparison between implicitly inferred and explicitly mentioned causes. Study 3 examines whether SCIs can be fully explained in terms of spreading activation to general, abstract schemes. It is suggested that STIs (e.g., Winter & Uleman, 1984), and spontaneous predicting inferences (e.g., McKoon and Ratcliff, 1986a, McKoon and Ratcliff, 1986b), may be better understood in their relation to SCIs.
Hassin, R. R., Bargh, J. A., & Uleman, J. S. (2002). Spontaneous causal inferences. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 38(5), 515-522.