A long tradition of psychological research has explored the distinction between characteristics that are part of the self and those that lie outside of it. Recently, a surge of research has begun examining a further distinction. Even among characteristics that are internal to the self, people pick out a subset as belonging to the true self. These factors are judged as making people who they really are, deep down. In this paper, we introduce the concept of the true self and (...) identify features that distinguish people’s understanding of the true self from their understanding of the self more generally. In particular, we consider recent findings that the true self is perceived as positive and moral, and that this tendency is actor-observer invariant and cross-culturally stable. We then explore possible explanations for these findings and discuss their implications for a variety of issues in psychology. (shrink)
The Twin Earth thought experiment invites us to consider a liquid that has all of the superficial properties associated with water (clear, potable, etc.) but has entirely different deeper causal properties (composed of “XYZ” rather than of H2O). Although this thought experiment was originally introduced to illuminate questions in the theory of reference, it has also played a crucial role in empirically informed debates within the philosophy of psychology about people’s ordinary natural kind concepts. Those debates have sought to accommodate (...) an apparent fact about ordinary people’s judgments: Intuitively, the Twin Earth liquid is not water. We present results from four experiments showing that people do not, in fact, have this intuition. Instead, people tend to have the intuition that there is a sense in which the liquid is not water but also a sense in which it is water. We explore the implications of this finding for debates about theories of natural kind concepts, arguing that it supports views positing two distinct criteria for membership in natural kind categories – one based on deeper causal properties, the other based on superficial, observable properties. (shrink)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
The concept of authenticity is central to how people value many different types of objects and yet there is considerable disagreement about how individuals evaluate authenticity or how the concept itself should be defined. This paper attempts to reconcile previous approaches by proposing a novel view of authenticity. Specifically, I draw upon past research on psychological essentialism and propose that when people evaluate the authenticity of objects, they do so by evaluating the extent to which the object embodies or reflects (...) a valued essence. I suggest that this explanation of authenticity provides an overarching framework that describes how people evaluate object authenticity across a variety of contexts and I report the results of three experiments that directly test the predictions made by this explanation. (shrink)
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)
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.
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.