Torture and judgments of guilt
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Although torture can establish guilt through confession, how are judgments of guilt made when tortured suspects do not confess? We suggest that perceived guilt is based inappropriately upon how much pain suspects appear to suffer during torture. Two psychological theories provide competing predictions about the link between pain and perceived blame: cognitive dissonance, which links pain to blame, and moral typecasting, which links pain to innocence. We hypothesized that dissonance might characterize the relationship between torture and blame for those close to the torture, while moral typecasting might characterize this relationship for those more distant from it. Accordingly, this experiment placed participants into one of two different roles in which people may be exposed to torture. Participants in the proximal role of prison staffer saw suffering torture victims as relatively more guilty, while participants in the relatively distant role of a radio listener saw suffering victims as more innocent.
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Siri Leknes & Brock Bastian (2014). The Benefits of Pain. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 5 (1):57-70.
Adam Waytz, Kurt Gray, Nicholas Epley & Daniel Wegner (2010). Causes and Consequences of Mind Perception. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 14 (8):383-388.
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