Causation is one of philosophy's most venerable and thoroughly-analyzed concepts. However, the study of how ordinary people make causal judgments is a much more recent addition to the philosophical arsenal. One of the most prominent views of causal explanation, especially in the realm of harmful or potentially harmful behavior, is that unusual or counternormative events are accorded privileged status in ordinary causal explanations. This is a fundamental assumption in psychological theories of counterfactual reasoning, and has been transported to philosophy by (...) Hitchcock and Knobe (2009). A different view--the basis of the culpable control model of blame (CCM)--is that primary causal status is accorded to behaviors that arouse negative evaluative reactions, including behaviors that stem from nefarious motives, negligence or recklessness, a faulty character, or behaviors that lead to harmful or potentially harmful consequences. This paper describes four empirical studies that show consistent support for the CCM. (shrink)
Moral philosophers, legal theorists, and psychologists who study moral judgment are remarkably agreed in prescribing how to blame people. A blameworthy act occurs when an actor intentionally, negligently or recklessly causes foreseen, or foreseeable, harmful consequences without any compelling mitigating or extenuating circumstances. This simple formulation conveniently forestalls intricacies about how to construe concepts such as will, causation, foresight, and mitigation, but putting that aside for the moment, it seems fair to say that blame “professionals” share compatible conceptions of how (...) to make fair and rational blame ascriptions. Blame “amateurs,” on the other hand, sometimes stretch these rational prescriptions for blame beyond the breaking point. Numerous psychological studies on blame and responsibility, as well as the perplexing outcomes of high-profile criminal and civil trials, demonstrate that everyday blamers are capable of violating virtually every rational prescription that moral philosophers, legal scholars, and rational decision theorists hold dear. (shrink)
Hypocrisy is a multi-faceted concept that has been studied empirically by psychologists and discussed logically by philosophers. In this study, we pose various behavioral scenarios to research participants and ask them to indicate whether the actor in the scenario behaved hypocritically. We assess many of the components that have been considered to be necessary for hypocrisy (e.g., the intent to deceive, self-deception), factors that may or may not be distinguished from hypocrisy (e.g., weakness of will), and factors that may moderate (...) hypocrisy (e.g., the degree of discrepancy between the attitude and behavior, whether the attitude is stated publicly, and the nature and severity of the behavioral consequences). Our findings indicate that lay conceptions of hypocrisy are often at odds with philosophical speculation. We argue that a complete understanding of the criteria for hypocrisy requires consideration of how ordinary people construe the concept. In contrast to some concepts (e.g., physical causation), for which lay conceptions, while interesting, are largely irrelevant, hypocrisy is an essential component of social judgment. One could argue, therefore, that folk wisdom is the ultimate arbiter of what hypocrisy entails. We note limitations of our methodology and suggest avenues for future research. (shrink)
Knobe argues in his target article that asymmetries in intentionality judgments can be explained by the view that concepts such as intentionality are suffused with moral considerations. We believe that the “culpable control” model of blame can account both for Knobe's side effect findings and for findings that do not involve side effects.
For most of the history of prejudice research, negativity has been treated as its emotional and cognitive signature, a conception that continues to dominate work on the topic. By this definition, prejudice occurs when we dislike or derogate members of other groups. Recent research, however, has highlighted the need for a more nuanced and (Eagly 2004) perspective on the role of intergroup emotions and beliefs in sustaining discrimination. On the one hand, several independent lines of research have shown that unequal (...) intergroup relations are often marked by attitudinal complexity, with positive responses such as affection and admiration mingling with negative responses such as contempt and resentment. Simple antipathy is the exception rather than the rule. On the other hand, there is mounting evidence that nurturing bonds of affection between the advantaged and the disadvantaged sometimes entrenches rather than disrupts wider patterns of discrimination. Notably, prejudice reduction interventions may have ironic effects on the political attitudes of the historically disadvantaged, decreasing their perceptions of injustice and willingness to engage in collective action to transform social inequalities. (shrink)
Actions that are intended to produce harmful consequences can fail to achieve their desired effects in numerous ways. We refer to action sequences in which harmful intentions are thwarted as deviant causal chains. The culpable control model of blame (CCM)is a useful tool for predicting and explaining the attributions that observers make of the actors whose harmful intentions go awry. In this paper, we describe six types of deviant causal chains; those in which: an actor’s attempt is obviated by the (...) intervention of another person or the environment; the intended effects could not have been produced regardless of the actor’s behavior; other causes diminish the actor’s causal role; the actor brings about foreseen but undesired consequences as a result of pursuing his or her focal goal; the focal action produces a chain of increasingly remote causal events; and the actor derives unforeseen benefits from his or her nefarious actions. A basic assumption of the CCM in these cases is that attributions for the participants’ actions will depend on positive and negative evaluations of their intentions and behaviors. We describe empirical findings that are consistent with this assumption, and predict other findings for causal deviance phenomena that have not yet been investigated empirically. (shrink)
What aspects and features of events impel people to label them as miraculous? Three studies examined people's miracle conceptions and the factors that lead them to designate an event as a miracle. Study 1 identified the basic elements of laypersons’ miracle beliefs by instructing participants to define a miracle, to list five events that they considered miraculous, and to state what they believed to be the purpose of miracles. Results showed that individuals tend to view miracles as highly improbable and (...) beneficial occurrences that instill hope and faith in people. Studies 2 and 3 investigated people's intuitive miracle theories. Findings demonstrated that people tend to label events as miracles when the events in question were of high magnitude, were obtained in an unusual manner, resulted in a beneficial health outcome, personally affected the participant, involved a person of worthy character, and depicted a low-probability event. (shrink)
What aspects and features of events impel people to label them as miraculous? Three studies examined people’s miracle conceptions and the factors that lead them to designate an event as a miracle. Study 1 identified the basic elements of laypersons’ miracle beliefs by instructing participants to define a miracle, to list five events that they considered miraculous, and to state what they believed to be the purpose of miracles. Results showed that individuals tend to view miracles as highly improbable and (...) beneficial occurrences that instill hope and faith in people. Studies 2 and 3 investigated people’s intuitive miracle theories. Findings demonstrated that people tend to label events as miracles when the events in question were of high magnitude, were obtained in an unusual manner, resulted in a beneficial health outcome, personally affected the participant, involved a person of worthy character, and depicted a low-probability event. (shrink)
I argue that Dixon et al. fail to maintain a careful distinction between the negative evaluation definition of and the implications of this definition for correcting the social ills that prejudice engenders. I also argue that they adduce little evidence to suggest that if prejudice were diminished, commensurate reductions in discrimination would not follow.