Reversing the Norm Effect on Causal Attributions


Research in the psychology of causal thinking has frequently revealed effects of normative considerations on causal attributions, where participants tend to assign causality more strongly to agents who violate a norm in bringing about an outcome. Across several experiments, we show that it is possible to reverse this norm effect when the outcome in question is good rather than bad: in these cases, participants assign causality more strongly to a norm-conforming agent than to an agent who violates a norm. We argue that this supports an explanation of the norm effect according to which it is due to a tendency to interpret statements of the form “X caused Y” or “X is the cause of Y” as assigning responsibility to X for bringing Y about.



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Author Profiles

John Schwenkler
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Justin Sytsma
Victoria University of Wellington

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References found in this work

Thinking, Fast and Slow.Daniel Kahneman - 2011 - New York: New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Cause and Norm.Christopher Hitchcock & Joshua Knobe - 2009 - Journal of Philosophy 106 (11):587-612.
Graded Causation and Defaults.Joseph Y. Halpern & Christopher Hitchcock - 2015 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 66 (2):413-457.

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