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The Paradox of Moral Focus

Cognition 119 (2):166-178 (2011)

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  1. Experimenter Philosophy: The Problem of Experimenter Bias in Experimental Philosophy.Brent Strickland & Aysu Suben - 2012 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 3 (3):457-467.
    It has long been known that scientists have a tendency to conduct experiments in a way that brings about the expected outcome. Here, we provide the first direct demonstration of this type of experimenter bias in experimental philosophy. Opposed to previously discovered types of experimenter bias mediated by face-to-face interactions between experimenters and participants, here we show that experimenters also have a tendency to create stimuli in a way that brings about expected outcomes. We randomly assigned undergraduate experimenters to receive (...)
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  • Unifying Morality’s Influence on Non-Moral Judgments: The Relevance of Alternative Possibilities.Jonathan Phillips, Jamie B. Luguri & Joshua Knobe - 2015 - Cognition 145:30-42.
    Past work has demonstrated that people’s moral judgments can influence their judgments in a number of domains that might seem to involve straightforward matters of fact, including judgments about freedom, causation, the doing/allowing distinction, and intentional action. The present studies explore whether the effect of morality in these four domains can be explained by changes in the relevance of alternative possibilities. More precisely, we propose that moral judgment influences the degree to which people regard certain alternative possibilities as relevant, which (...)
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  • True Happiness: The Role of Morality in the Folk Concept of Happiness.Jonathan Phillips, Christian Mott, Julian De Freitas, June Gruber & Joshua Knobe - 2017 - Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 146 (2):165-181.
    Recent scientific research has settled on a purely descriptive definition of happiness that is focused solely on agents’ psychological states (high positive affect, low negative affect, high life satisfaction). In contrast to this understanding, recent research has suggested that the ordinary concept of happiness is also sensitive to the moral value of agents’ lives. Five studies systematically investigate and explain the impact of morality on ordinary assessments of happiness. Study 1 demonstrates that moral judgments influence assessments of happiness not only (...)
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  • The Psychological Representation of Modality.Jonathan Phillips & Joshua Knobe - 2018 - Mind and Language 33 (1):1-.
    A series of recent studies have explored the impact of people's judgments regarding physical law, morality, and probability. Surprisingly, such studies indicate that these three apparently unrelated types of judgments often have precisely the same impact. We argue that these findings provide evidence for a more general hypothesis about the kind of cognition people use to think about possibilities. Specifically, we suggest that this aspect of people's cognition is best understood using an idea developed within work in the formal semantics (...)
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  • The Empirical Identity of Moral Judgment: Table 1.Victor Kumar - 2016 - Philosophical Quarterly 66 (265):783-804.
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  • Morality Constrains the Default Representation of What is Possible.Jonathan Phillips & Fiery Cushman - 2017 - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 114 (18):4649-4654.
    The capacity for representing and reasoning over sets of possibilities, or modal cognition, supports diverse kinds of high-level judgments: causal reasoning, moral judgment, language comprehension, and more. Prior research on modal cognition asks how humans explicitly and deliberatively reason about what is possible but has not investigated whether or how people have a default, implicit representation of which events are possible. We present three studies that characterize the role of implicit representations of possibility in cognition. Collectively, these studies differentiate explicit (...)
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  • Sticky Situations: 'Force' and Quantifier Domains.Matthew Mandelkern & Jonathan Phillips - forthcoming - Semantics and Linguistic Theory 28.
    When do we judge that someone was forced to do what they did? One relatively well-established finding is that subjects tend to judge that agents were not forced to do actions when those actions violate norms. A surprising discovery of Young & Phillips 2011 is that this effect seems to disappear when we frame the relevant ‘force’-claim in the active rather than passive voice ('X forced Y to φ ' vs. 'Y was forced to φ by X'). Young and Phillips (...)
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  • The Concept of Innateness as an Object of Empirical Enquiry.Richard Samuels - 2016 - In Justin Sytsma & Wesley Buckwalter (eds.), Blackwell Companion to Experimental Philosophy. Blackwell. pp. 504-519.
  • Thinking Like a Scientist: Innateness as a Case Study.Joshua Knobe & Richard Samuels - 2013 - Cognition 126 (1):72-86.
    The concept of innateness appears in systematic research within cognitive science, but it also appears in less systematic modes of thought that long predate the scientific study of the mind. The present studies therefore explore the relationship between the properly scientific uses of this concept and its role in ordinary folk understanding. Studies 1-4 examined the judgments of people with no specific training in cognitive science. Results showed (a) that judgments about whether a trait was innate were not affected by (...)
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  • Beliefs About the True Self Explain Asymmetries Based on Moral Judgment.George E. Newman, Julian De Freitas & Joshua Knobe - 2015 - Cognitive Science 39 (1):96-125.
    Past research has identified a number of asymmetries based on moral judgments. Beliefs about what a person values, whether a person is happy, whether a person has shown weakness of will, and whether a person deserves praise or blame seem to depend critically on whether participants themselves find the agent's behavior to be morally good or bad. To date, however, the origins of these asymmetries remain unknown. The present studies examine whether beliefs about an agent's “true self” explain these observed (...)
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  • On the Concept and Measure of Voluntariness: Insights From Behavioral Economics and Cognitive Science.J. S. Swindell Blumenthal-Barby - 2011 - American Journal of Bioethics 11 (8):25-26.
    In their article “The Concept of Voluntary Consent,” Robert Nelson and colleagues (2011) argue for two necessary and jointly sufficient conditions for voluntary action: intentionality, and substantial freedom from controlling influences. They propose an instrument to empirically measure voluntariness, the Decision Making Control Instrument. I argue that (1) their conceptual analysis of intentionality and controlling influences needs expansion in light of the growing use of behavioral economics principles to change individual and public health behaviors (growing in part by the designation (...)
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  • Modals with a Taste of the Deontic.Zoltán Gendler Szabó & Joshua Knobe - 2013 - Semantics and Pragmatics 6 (1):1-42.
    The aim of this paper is to present an explanation for the impact of normative considerations on people’s assessment of certain seemingly purely descriptive matters. The explanation is based on two main claims. First, a large category of expressions are tacitly modal: they are contextually equivalent to modal proxies. Second, the interpretation of predominantly circumstantial or teleological modals is subject to certain constraints which make certain possibilities salient at the expense of others.
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  • Effects of Manipulation on Attributions of Causation, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility.Dylan Murray & Tania Lombrozo - 2017 - Cognitive Science 41 (2):447-481.
    If someone brings about an outcome without intending to, is she causally and morally responsible for it? What if she acts intentionally, but as the result of manipulation by another agent? Previous research has shown that an agent's mental states can affect attributions of causal and moral responsibility to that agent, but little is known about what effect one agent's mental states can have on attributions to another agent. In Experiment 1, we replicate findings that manipulation lowers attributions of responsibility (...)
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  • The Rise of Moral Cognition.Joshua D. Greene - 2015 - Cognition 135:39-42.
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  • Harmful Situations, Impure People: An Attribution Asymmetry Across Moral Domains.Alek Chakroff & Liane Young - 2015 - Cognition 136:30-37.
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  • Omissions and Expectations: A New Approach to the Things We Failed to Do.Pascale Willemsen - 2018 - Synthese 195 (4):1587-1614.
    Imagine you and your friend Pierre agreed on meeting each other at a café, but he does not show up. What is the difference between a friend’s not showing up meeting? and any other person not coming? In some sense, all people who did not come show the same kind of behaviour, but most people would be willing to say that the absence of a friend who you expected to see is different in kind. In this paper, I will spell (...)
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