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 (...) asymmetries based on moral judgment. Using the identical materials from previous studies in this area, a series of five experiments indicate that people show a general tendency to conclude that deep inside every individual there is a “true self” calling him or her to behave in ways that are morally virtuous. In turn, this belief causes people to hold different intuitions about what the agent values, whether the agent is happy, whether he or she has shown weakness of will, and whether he or she deserves praise or blame. These results not only help to answer important questions about how people attribute various mental states to others; they also contribute to important theoretical debates regarding how moral values may shape our beliefs about phenomena that, on the surface, appear to be decidedly non-moral in nature. (shrink)
People sometimes explain behavior by appealing to an essentialist concept of the self, often referred to as the true self. Existing studies suggest that people tend to believe that the true self is morally virtuous; that is deep inside, every person is motivated to behave in morally good ways. Is this belief particular to individuals with optimistic beliefs or people from Western cultures, or does it reflect a widely held cognitive bias in how people understand the self? To address this (...) question, we tested the good true self theory against two potential boundary conditions that are known to elicit different beliefs about the self as a whole. Study 1 tested whether individual differences in misanthropy—the tendency to view humans negatively—predict beliefs about the good true self in an American sample. The results indicate a consistent belief in a good true self, even among individuals who have an explicitly pessimistic view of others. Study 2 compared true self-attributions across cultural groups, by comparing samples from an independent country and a diverse set of interdependent countries. Results indicated that the direction and magnitude of the effect are comparable across all groups we tested. The belief in a good true self appears robust across groups varying in cultural orientation or misanthropy, suggesting a consistent psychological tendency to view the true self as morally good. (shrink)
A growing body of research has examined how people judge the persistence of identity over time—that is, how they decide that a particular individual is the same entity from one time to the next. While a great deal of progress has been made in understanding the types of features that people typically consider when making such judgments, to date, existing work has not explored how these judgments may be shaped by normative considerations. The present studies demonstrate that normative beliefs do (...) appear to play an important role in people's beliefs about persistence. Specifically, people are more likely to judge that the identity of a given entity remains the same when its features improve than when its features deteriorate. Study 1 provides a basic demonstration of this effect. Study 2 shows that this effect is moderated by individual differences in normative beliefs. Study 3 examines the underlying mechanism, which is the belief that, in general, various entities are essentially good. Study 4 directly manipulates beliefs about essence to show that the positivity bias regarding essences is causally responsible for the effect. (shrink)
We agree that supernatural beliefs are pervasive. However, we propose a more general account rooted in how people trace ordinary objects over time. Tracking identity involves attending to the causal history of an object, a process that may implicate hidden mechanisms. We discuss experiments in which participants exhibit the same “supernatural” beliefs when reasoning about the fates of cups and automobiles as those exhibited by Bering's participants when reasoning about spirits.
This paper examines people's reasoning about identity continuity and its relation to previous research on how people value one-of-a-kind artifacts, such as artwork. We propose that judgments about the continuity of artworks are related to judgments about the continuity of individual persons because art objects are seen as physical extensions of their creators. We report a reanalysis of previous data and the results of two new empirical studies that test this hypothesis. The first study demonstrates that the mere categorization of (...) an object as “art” versus “a tool” changes people's intuitions about the persistence of those objects over time. In a second study, we examine some conditions that may lead artworks to be thought of as different from other artifacts. These observations inform both current understanding of what makes some objects one-of-a-kind as well as broader questions regarding how people intuitively think about the persistence of human agents. (shrink)
The concept of authenticity plays an important role in how people reason about objects, other people, and themselves. However, despite a great deal of academic interest in this concept, to date, the precise meaning of the term, authenticity, has remained somewhat elusive. This paper reviews the various definitions of authenticity that have been proposed in the literature and identifies areas of convergence. We then outline a novel framework that organizes the existing definitions of authenticity along two key dimensions: describing the (...) type of entity that is evaluated and describing the source of information that is consulted. We argue that this convergence across a number of papers, and more importantly, across a number of domains, reflects significant progress in articulating the meaning of authenticity. We conclude by suggesting new avenues for research in this area, with particular attention toward psychological process. (shrink)
The present studies investigated children’s and adults’ intuitive beliefs about the physical nature of essences. Adults and children (ranging in age from 6 to 10 years old) were asked to reason about two different ways of determining an unknown object’s category: taking a tiny internal sample from any part of the object (distributed view of essence), or taking a sample from one specific region (localized view of essence). Results from three studies indicated that adults strongly endorsed the distributed view, and (...) children showed a developmental shift from a localized to distributed view with increasing age. These results suggest that even children go beyond mere placeholder notions of essence, committing to conceptual frameworks of how essences might be physically instantiated. (shrink)
Recent experimental evidence indicates that intuitions about inherence and system justification are distinct psychological processes, and that the inherence heuristic supplies important explanatory frameworks that are accepted or rejected based on their consistency with one's motivation to justify the system.
Bullot & Reber (B&R) make a strong case for the role of causal reasoning in the appreciation of artwork. Although I agree that an artistic design stance is important for art appreciation, I suggest that it is a subset of a more general framework for evaluating artworks as the causal extensions of individuals, which includes inferences about the creator's mind, as well as more physical notions of essence.
Several studies demonstrate that an intuitive link between agents and order emerges within the first year of life. This appreciation seems importantly related to similar forms of inference, such as the Argument from Design. We suggest, however, that infants and young children may be more accurate in their tendencies to infer agents from order than older children and adults, who often infer intentional agents when there are none. Thus, the earliest inferences about intentional agents based on order may be quite (...) accurate and resistant to non-intentional foils, but with further cognitive development and overgeneralization, links between order and agents may emerge that, with the right socio-cultural prompts, can lead to the Argument from Design. (shrink)
Five experiments provide evidence for a class of ‘dual character concepts.’ Dual character concepts characterize their members in terms of both (a) a set of concrete features and (b) the abstract values that these features serve to realize. As such, these concepts provide two bases for evaluating category members and two different criteria for category membership. Experiment 1 provides support for the notion that dual character concepts have two bases for evaluation. Experiments 2-4 explore the claim that dual character concepts (...) have two different criteria for category membership. The results show that when an object possesses the appropriate concrete features, but does not fulfill the appropriate abstract value, it is judged to be a category member in one sense but not in another. Finally, Experiment 5 uses the theory developed here to construct artificial dual character concepts and examines whether participants react to these artificial concepts in the same way as naturally occurring dual character concepts. The present studies serve to define the nature of dual character concepts and distinguish them from other types of concepts (e.g., natural kind concepts), which share some, but not all of the properties of dual character concepts. More broadly, these phenomena suggest a normative dimension in everyday conceptual representation. (shrink)
This article considers how people judge the identity of objects (e.g., how people decide that a description of an object at one time, t₀, belongs to the same object as a description of it at another time, t₁). The authors propose a causal continuer model for these judgments, based on an earlier theory by Nozick (1981). According to this model, the 2 descriptions belong to the same object if (a) the object at t₁ is among those that are causally close (...) enough to be genuine continuers of the original and (b) it is the closest of these close-enough contenders. A quantitative version of the model makes accurate predictions about judgments of which a pair of objects is identical to an original (Experiments 1 and 2). The model makes correct qualitative predictions about identity across radical disassembly (Experiment 1) as well as more ordinary transformations (Experiments 2 and 3). (shrink)
Internalism about mental content holds that microphysical duplicates must be mental duplicates full-stop. Anyone particle-for-particle indiscernible from someone who believes that Aristotle was wise, for instance, must share that same belief. Externalism instead contends that many perfectly ordinary propositional attitudes can be had only in certain sorts of physical, sociolinguistic, or historical context. To have a belief about Aristotle, for instance, a person must have been causally impacted in the right way by Aristotle himself (e.g., by hearing about him, or (...) reading some of his works).An interesting third view, which I call. (shrink)
This article examines constructivism, a paradigm in qualitative research that has been propagated by Egon Guba, Yvonna Lincoln, and Norman Denzin. A distinction is made between whether the basic presuppositions of constructivism are credible compared to those of a competing paradigm and whether constructivism's beliefs are internally consistent. The latter approach, i.e. whether constructivism is internally consistent, is the focus of this article. The issues singled out for discussion are concerned with the constructivist ontology and epistemology. This article shows that (...) constructivism's paradigmatic beliefs are internally in tension. (shrink)
In a recent essay review of William R. Newman, Atoms and Alchemy (2006), Ursula Klein defends her position that philosophically informed corpuscularian theories of matter contributed little to the growing knowledge of "reversible reactions" and robust chemical species in the early modern period. Newman responds here by providing further evidence that an experimental, scholastic tradition of alchemy extending well into the Middle Ages had already argued extensively for the persistence of ingredients during processes of "mixture" (e.g. chemical reactions), (...) and that this corpuscular alchemical tradition bore important fruit in the work of early modern chymists such as Daniel Sennert and Robert Boyle. (shrink)
About the Author James Elkins is E.C. Chadbourne Chair in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His many books include Pictures and Tears, How to Use Your Eyes, and What Painting Is, all published by Routledge. Michael Newman teaches in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and is Professor of Art Writing at Goldsmiths College in the University (...) of London. His publications include the books Richard Prince: Untitled (couple) and Jeff Wall, and he is co-editor with Jon Bird of Rewriting Conceptual Art. (shrink)
Internalism about mental content is the view that microphysical duplicates must be mental duplicates as well. This dissertation develops and defends the idea that only a strong version of internalism is compatible with our commonsense commitment to mental causation. ;Chapter one defends a novel necessary condition on a property's being causally efficacious---viz., that any property F that is efficacious with respect to event E cannot be instantiated in virtue of any property G that is itself ceteris paribus sufficient for E---and (...) shows that that necessary condition vindicates the idea that externalism is incompatible with our commonsense commitment to mental causation. ;The internalist's core intuition is that only intrinsic properties can be causally efficacious. Chapter two defends that intuition from the common externalist response that extrinsic properties abound. ;A popular "Middle Way" between externalism and internalism holds that although ordinary, "folk-psychological" contents of prepositional attitudes are extrinsic, there exists some other non-folk-psychological kind of content that is intrinsic. Chapter three argues that Jerry Fodor's influential argument for the Middle Way is incoherent. ;Chapter four identifies a weak but popular grade of internalism, endorsed by John Searle among others, and argues that it is untenable. ;The preceding defense of internalism can be believed only if there is something wrong with the canonical arguments for externalism developed by Hillary Putnam, Tyler Burge, and Saul Kripke. My postscript says what I think is wrong with the canonical externalist arguments: they assume the nonexistence of propositions that are truth-evaluable only relative to particular persons, places, or times; while I argue that our commonsense commitment to mental causation requires at least some such "indexical propositions". (shrink)