David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Review of Philosophy and Psychology 3 (3):351-368 (2012)
For some reason, participants hold agents more responsible for their actions when a situation is described concretely than when the situation is described abstractly. We present examples of this phenomenon, and survey some attempts to explain it. We divide these attempts into two classes: affective theories and cognitive theories. After criticizing both types of theories we advance our novel hypothesis: that people believe that whenever a norm is violated, someone is responsible for it. This belief, along with the familiar workings of cognitive dissonance theory, is enough to not only explain all of the abstract/concrete paradoxes, but also explains seemingly unrelated effects, like the anthropomorphization of malfunctioning inanimate objects.
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