The Dynamics of Responsibility Judgment: Joint Role of Dependence and Transference Causal Explanations.

Philosophical Psychology 35 (6):911-939 (2022)
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Reasoning about underlying causal relations drives responsibility judgments: agents are held responsible for the outcomes they cause through their behaviors. Two main causal reasoning approaches exist: dependence theories emphasize statistical relations between causes and effects, while transference theories emphasize mechanical transmission of energy. Recently, pluralistic or hybrid models, combining both approaches, have emerged as promising psychological frameworks. In this paper, we focus on causal reasoning as involved in third-party judgements of responsibility and on related judgments of intention and control. In particular, we used a novel visual paradigm to investigate the combined effects of two well-known causal manipulations, namely omission and pre-emption, on these evaluations. Our findings support the view that people apply a pluralistic causal reasoning when evaluating individual responsibility for negative outcomes. In particular, we observed diminished responsibility when dependence, transference, or both fail, compared to when these mechanisms are upheld. Responsibility judgement involves a cognitive hybrid of multiple aspects of causal reasoning. However, important differences exist at the interindividual level, with most people weighting transference more than dependence.

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Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 1962 - Proceedings of the British Academy 48:187-211.
Moral Dimensions: Permissibility, Meaning, Blame.Thomas Scanlon - 2008 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

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