Ordinary causal attributions, norms, and gradability


There is a large literature exploring the effect of norms on the attribution of causation. Empirical research on this so-called “norm effect” has predominantly focused on two data points: A situation in which an agent violates a salient norm, and one in which there is no violation of a salient norm. Since the phenomenon is understood in bivalent terms (norm infraction vs. no norm infraction), most explanations thereof have the same structure. In this paper, we report several studies (total N=479) according to which perceived causation depends on the strength of the norm violated – whether strength is conceived in terms of the norm’s strictness, explicitness or associated punishment. Consequently, the norm effect, properly conceived, is not bivalent but graded in nature, the standard data points (norm violation vs. no norm violation) are but a special case of a broader phenomenon. This, we argue, puts pressure on many, if not most, of the current explanations of the norm effect on causation.



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Author Profiles

Jan García Olier
University of Zürich
Markus Kneer
University of Graz

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References found in this work

No luck for moral luck.Markus Kneer & Edouard Machery - 2019 - Cognition 182 (C):331-348.
Cause and Norm.Christopher Hitchcock & Joshua Knobe - 2009 - Journal of Philosophy 106 (11):587-612.
Person as scientist, person as moralist.Joshua Knobe - 2010 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33 (4):315.

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