Visual Design and Engineering Laboratory

Carnegie Mellon University

Causal Reasoning using Geometric Analysis


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We describe an approach that uses causal and geometric reasoning to construct explanations for the purposes of the geometric features on the parts of a mechanical device. To identify the purpose of a feature, the device is simulated with and without the feature. The simulations are then translated into a “causal-process” representation, which allows qualitatively important differences to be identified. These differences reveal the behaviors caused and prevented by the feature and thus provide useful cues about the feature's purpose. A clear understanding of the feature's purpose, however, requires a detailed analysis of the causal connections between the caused and prevented behaviors. This presents a significant challenge because one has to understand how a behavior that normally takes place affects (or is affected by) another behavior that is normally absent. This article describes techniques for identifying such elusive relationships. These techniques employ a set of rules that can determine if one behavior enables or disables another that is spatially and temporally far away. They do so by geometrically examining the traces of the causal processes in the device's configuration space. Using the results of this analysis, our program can automatically generate text output describing how the feature performs its function.


Levent Burak Kara, Thomas F. Stahovich. (2002). Causal Reasoning using Geometric Analysis. AI EDAM, Vol. 16, No. 5, pp 363-384.

 title = {Causal reasoning using geometric analysis},
 journal = {AI EDAM},
 year = {2002},
 volume = {16},
 pages = {363-384},
 number = {05},
 doi = {10.1017/S0890060402165036},
 eprint = {},
 url = {},