How do people decide which claims should be considered mere beliefs and which count as knowledge? Although little is known about how people attribute knowledge to others, philosophical debate about the nature of knowledge may provide a starting point. Traditionally, a belief that is both true and justiﬁed was thought to constitute knowledge. However, philosophers now agree that this account is inadequate, due largely to a class of counterexamples (termed ‘‘Gettier cases’’) in which a person’s justiﬁed belief is true, but (...) only due to luck. We report four experiments examining the effect of truth, justiﬁcation, and ‘‘Gettiering’’ on people’s knowledge attributions. These experiments show that: (1) people attribute knowledge to others only when their beliefs are both true and justiﬁed; (2) in contrast to contemporary philosophers, people also attribute knowledge to others in Gettier situations; and (3) knowledge is not attributed in one class of Gettier cases, but only because the agent’s belief is based on ‘‘apparent’’ evidence. These ﬁndings suggest that the lay concept of knowledge is roughly consistent with the traditional account of knowledge as justiﬁed true belief, and also point to a major difference between the epistemic intuitions of laypeople and those of philosophers. (shrink)
Our ability to understand the thoughts and feelings of other people does not initially develop as a theory but as a mechanism. The ‘ theory of mind ’ mechanism is part of the core architecture of the human brain, and is specialized for learning about mental states. Impaired development of this mechanism can have drastic effects on social learning, seen most strikingly in the autistic spectrum disorders. ToMM kick-starts belief–desire attribution but effective reasoning about belief contents depends on a process (...) of selection by inhibition. This selection process develops slowly through the preschool period and well beyond. By modeling the ToMM-SP as mechanisms of selective attention, we have uncovered new empirical phenomena. We propose that early ‘ theory of mind ’ is a modular–heuristic process of domain-specific learning. (shrink)
Research on the capacity to understand others’ minds has tended to focus on representations of beliefs, which are widely taken to be among the most central and basic theory of mind representations. Representations of knowledge, by contrast, have received comparatively little attention and have often been understood as depending on prior representations of belief. After all, how could one represent someone as knowing something if one doesn't even represent them as believing it? Drawing on a wide range of methods across (...) cognitive science, we ask whether belief or knowledge is the more basic kind of representation. The evidence indicates that non-human primates attribute knowledge but not belief, that knowledge representations arise earlier in human development than belief representations, that the capacity to represent knowledge may remain intact in patient populations even when belief representation is disrupted, that knowledge attributions are likely automatic, and that explicit knowledge attributions are made more quickly than equivalent belief attributions. Critically, the theory of mind representations uncovered by these various methods exhibit a set of signature features clearly indicative of knowledge: they are not modality-specific, they are factive, they are not just true belief, and they allow for representations of egocentric ignorance. We argue that these signature features elucidate the primary function of knowledge representation: facilitating learning from others about the external world. This suggests a new way of understanding theory of mind—one that is focused on understanding others’ minds in relation to the actual world, rather than independent from it. (shrink)
Five experiments demonstrate the central role of knowledge attributions in social evaluations. In Experiments 1–3, we manipulated whether an agent believes, is certain of, or knows a true proposition and asked people to rate whether the agent should perform a variety of actions. We found that knowledge, more so than belief or certainty, leads people to judge that the agent should act. In Experiments 4–5, we investigated whether attributions of knowledge or certainty can explain an important finding on how people (...) act based on statistical evidence, known as “the Wells effect”. We found that knowledge attributions, but not certainty attributions, mediate this effect on decision making. 2018 APA, all rights reserved). (shrink)
Academics across widely ranging disciplines all pursue knowledge, but they do so using vastly different methods. Do these academics therefore also have different ideas about when someone possesses knowledge? Recent experimental findings suggest that intuitions about when individuals have knowledge may vary across groups; in particular, the concept of knowledge espoused by the discipline of philosophy may not align with the concept held by laypeople. Across two studies, we investigate the concept of knowledge held by academics across seven disciplines (N (...) = 1,581) and compare these judgments to those of philosophers (N = 204) and laypeople (N = 336). We find that academics and laypeople share a similar concept of knowledge, while philosophers have a substantially different concept. These experiments show that (a) in contrast to philosophers, other academics and laypeople attribute knowledge to others in some “Gettier” situations; (b) academics and laypeople are much less likely to attribute knowledge when reminded of the possibility of error, but philosophers are not affected by this reminder; and (c) non‐philosophy academics are overall more skeptical about knowledge than laypeople or philosophers. These findings suggest that academics across a wide range of disciplines share a similar concept of knowledge, and that this concept aligns closely with the intuitions held by laypeople, and differs considerably from the concept of knowledge described in the philosophical literature, as well as the epistemic intuitions of philosophers themselves. (shrink)
We report a series of experiments examining whether people ascribe knowledge for true beliefs based on probabilistic evidence. Participants were less likely to ascribe knowledge for beliefs based on probabilistic evidence than for beliefs based on perceptual evidence or testimony providing causal information. Denial of knowledge for beliefs based on probabilistic evidence did not arise because participants viewed such beliefs as unjustified, nor because such beliefs leave open the possibility of error. These findings rule out traditional philosophical accounts for why (...) probabilistic evidence does not produce knowledge. The experiments instead suggest that people deny knowledge because they distrust drawing conclusions about an individual based on reasoning about the population to which it belongs, a tendency previously identified by “judgment and decision making” researchers. Consistent with this, participants were more willing to ascribe knowledge for beliefs based on probabilistic evidence that is specific to a particular case. 2016 APA, all rights reserved). (shrink)
We conducted five experiments that reveal some main contours of the folk epistemology of lotteries. The folk tend to think that you don't know that your lottery ticket lost, based on the long odds ("statistical cases"); by contrast, the folk tend to think that you do know that your lottery ticket lost, based on a news report ("testimonial cases"). We evaluate three previous explanations for why people deny knowledge in statistical cases: the justification account, the chance account, and the statistical (...) account. None of them seems to work. We then propose a new explanation of our own, the formulaic account, according to which some people deny knowledge in statistical cases due to formulaic expression. (shrink)
The ability to engage in and recognize pretend play begins around 18 months. A major challenge for theories of pretense is explaining how children are able to engage in pretense, and how they are able to recognize pretense in others. According to one major account, the metarepresentational theory, young children possess both production and recognition abilities because they possess the mental state concept, PRETEND. According to a more recent rival account, the Behavioral theory, young children are behaviorists about pretense, and (...) only produce and recognize pretense as a sort of behavior--namely, behaving 'as-if'. We review both the metarepresentational and Behavioral accounts and argue that the Behavioral theory fails to characterize very young children's abilities to produce and to recognize pretense. Among other problems, the Behavioral theory implies that children should frequently mis-recognize regular behavior as pretense, while certain regular forms of pretend play should neither be produced nor recognized. Like other mental states, pretense eludes purely behavioral description. The metarepresentational theory does not suffer these problems and provides a better account of children's pretense. 2016 APA, all rights reserved). (shrink)
Nagel, San Juan, and Mar report an experiment investigating lay attributions of knowledge, belief, and justification. They suggest that, in keeping with the expectations of philosophers, but contra recent empirical findings [Starmans, C. & Friedman, O. (2012). The folk conception of knowledge. Cognition, 124, 272–283], laypeople consistently deny knowledge in Gettier cases, regardless of whether the beliefs are based on ‘apparent’ or ‘authentic’ evidence. In this reply, we point out that Nagel et al. employed a questioning method that biased participants (...) to deny knowledge. Moreover, careful examination of participants’ responses reveals that they attributed knowledge in Gettier cases. We also note that Nagel et al. misconstrue the distinction between ‘apparent’ and ‘authentic’ evidence, and use scenarios that do not feature the structure that characterizes most Gettier cases. We conclude that NS&M’s findings are fully compatible with the claim that laypeople attribute knowledge in Gettier cases in general, but are significantly less likely to attribute knowledge when a belief is generated based on apparent evidence. (shrink)
A basic problem of daily life is determining who owns what. One way that people may solve this problem is by relying on a ‘first possession’ heuristic, according to which the first person who possesses an object is its owner, even if others subsequently possess the object. We investigated preschoolers’ use of this heuristic in five experiments. In Experiments 1 and 2, 3- and 4-year-olds inferred that an object was owned by the character who possessed it first, even though another (...) character subsequently possessed it. Two-year-olds also showed this bias, but only when the object was placed between the characters when children were asked about ownership. Experiment 3 ruled out the possibility that children’s bias to select the first possessor results from a tendency to select the character first associated with the object. Experiment 4 showed that 3- and 4-year-olds have difficulty disregarding the first possession heuristic, even when provided with evidence that the character who first possessed an object is not its owner. But Experiment 5 found that children can disregard the heuristic in at least some situations. These five experiments suggest that the first possession heuristic guides children’s ownership inferences. The findings provide the first evidence that preschoolers can infer who owns what, when not explicitly told, and when not reasoning about objects with which they are personally acquainted. (shrink)
Legal systems often rule that people own objects in their territory. We propose that an early-developing ability to make territory-based inferences of ownership helps children address informational demands presented by ownership. Across 6 experiments (N = 504), we show that these inferences develop between ages 3 and 5 and stem from two aspects of the psychology of ownership. First, we find that a basic ability to infer that people own objects in their territory is already present at age 3 (Experiment (...) 1). Children even make these inferences when the territory owner unintentionally acquired the objects and was unaware of them (Experiments 2 and 3). Second, we find that between ages 3 and 5, children come to consider past events in these judgments. They move from solely considering the current location of an object in territory-based inferences, to also considering and possibly inferring where it originated (Experiments 4 to 6). Together, these findings suggest that territory-based inferences of ownership are unlikely to be constructions of the law. Instead, they may reflect basic intuitions about ownership that operate from early in development. (shrink)
People often judge it unacceptable to directly harm a person, even when this is necessary to produce an overall positive outcome, such as saving five other lives. We demonstrate that similar judgments arise when people consider damage to owned objects. In two experiments, participants considered dilemmas where saving five inanimate objects required destroying one. Participants judged this unacceptable when it required violating another’s ownership rights, but not otherwise. They also judged that sacrificing another’s object was less acceptable as a means (...) than as a side-effect; judgments did not depend on whether property damage involved personal force. These findings inform theories of moral decision-making. They show that utilitarian judgment can be decreased without physical harm to persons, and without personal force. The findings also show that the distinction between means and side-effects influences the acceptability of damaging objects, and that ownership impacts utilitarian moral judgment. (shrink)
Understanding ownership rights is necessary for socially appropriate behavior. We provide evidence that preschoolers' and adults' judgments of ownership rights are related to their judgments of bodily rights. Four-year-olds and adults evaluated the acceptability of harmless actions targeting owned property and body parts. At both ages, evaluations did not vary for owned property or body parts. Instead, evaluations were influenced by two other manipulations—whether the target belonged to the agent or another person, and whether that other person approved of the (...) action. Moreover, these manipulations influenced judgments for owned objects and body parts in the same way: When the other person approved of the action, participants' judgments were positive regardless of who the target belonged to. In contrast, when that person disapproved, judgments depended on who the target belonged to. These findings show that young children grasp the importance of approval or consent for ownership rights and bodily rights, and likewise suggest that people's notions of ownership rights are related to their appreciation of bodily rights. (shrink)
Young children’s failures in reasoning about beliefs and desires, and especially about false beliefs, have been much studied. However, there are few accounts of successful belief-desire reasoning in older children or adults. An exception to this is a model in which belief attribution is treated as a process wherein an inhibitory system selects the most likely content for the belief to be attributed from amongst several competing contents [Leslie, A. M., & Polizzi, P. (1998). Developmental Science, 1, 247–254]. We tested (...) this model with an ‘avoidance false belief task’ in which subjects predict the behavior of a character, who wants to avoid an object but who is mistaken about which of three locations it is in. The task has two equally correct answers—in seeking to avoid the location where she mistakenly believes the object to be, the character might equally go to the location where the object actually is, or to the remaining empty location. However, the model predicts that subjects will prefer one of these answers, selecting the object’s actual location over the empty location. This bias was confirmed in a series of five experiments with children aged between 4 and 8 years of age. A sixth experiment ruled out two rival explanations for children’s biased responding. Two further experiments found the opposite bias in adults. These findings support one selection model as an account of belief-desire reasoning in children, and suggest that a different model is needed for adults. The process of selecting contents for mental state attributions shows a developmental shift between 8 years of age and adulthood. (shrink)
Young children show competence in reasoning about how ownership affects object use. In the present experiments, we investigate how influential ownership is for young children by examining their explanations. In three experiments, we asked 3- to 5-year-olds to explain why it was acceptable or unacceptable for a person to use an object. In Experiments 1 and 2, older preschoolers referenced ownership more than alternative considerations when explaining why it was acceptable or unacceptable for a person to use an object, even (...) though ownership was not mentioned to them. In Experiment 3, ownership was mentioned to children. Here, younger preschoolers frequently referenced ownership when explaining unacceptability of using an object, but not when explaining why using it was acceptable. These findings suggest that ownership is influential in preschoolers' explanations about the acceptability of using objects, but that the scope of its influence increases with age. (shrink)
Owned objects are typically viewed as non-fungible-they cannot be freely interchanged. We report three experiments (total N=312) demonstrating this intuition in preschool-aged children. In Experiment 1, children considered an agent who takes one of two identical objects and leaves the other for a peer. Children viewed this as acceptable when the agent took his own item, but not when he took his peer's item. In Experiment 2, children considered scenarios where one agent took property from another. Children said the victim (...) could take back her own property from the perpetrator, but that she could not take an identical object belonging to the perpetrator. Finally, in Experiment 3A and 3B, children considered scenarios where a teacher could give a child either of two objects to play with-an object that the child had recently played with, or another object that looked the same. Children were more likely to say that the teacher should give the object recently played with when it belonged to the child, compared with when it belonged to the teacher. These findings are informative about the basis of judgments that property is non-fungible, and about young children's representation of ownership rights. They show that children's representation of ownership rights is not limited to principles protecting owners from being deprived. Our findings instead suggest that ownership rights are viewed as pertaining to individual objects. (shrink)
From ancient objects in museums to souvenirs obtained on vacation, we often value objects for their distinctive histories. The present experiments investigate the developmental origins of people’s feelings that objects with distinctive histories are special. In each of four experiments, 4- to 7-year-olds (total N = 400) saw pairs of identical-looking objects in which one object was new and the other had a history that was either distinctive or mundane. In the first experiment, the histories did not involve people; in (...) the remaining experiments, the histories were personal and related the objects to particular people. Distinctive histories affected children’s valuations of regular objects (all experiments), but not their valuations of stuffed animals. Both older and younger children viewed regular objects with distinctive histories as more special than those with mundane histories. Older children mostly viewed objects with distinctive histories as more special than new objects, and younger children showed similar judgments when judging which object a person cared about more. Together, the findings reveal a novel way that information about the past influences children’s judgments about the present and suggest that young children’s valuations of objects depend on objects’ histories. (shrink)
How is ownership established over non-owned things? We suggest that people may view ownership as a kind of credit given to agents responsible for making possession of a non-owned object possible. On this view, judgments about the establishment of ownership depend on attributions of responsibility. We report three experiments showing that people’s judgments about the establishment of ownership are influenced by an agent’s intent and control in bringing about an outcome, factors that also affect attributions of responsibility. These findings demonstrate (...) that people do not just consider who was first to possess an object in judging who owns it, and are broadly consistent with the view that ownership is acquired through labor. The findings also suggest that rather than exclusively being the product of social conventions, judgments about the establishment of ownership over non-owned things also depend on the psychological processes underlying the attribution of responsibility. (shrink)
People are normally restricted from accessing property without permission from the owner. The principle that nonowners are excluded from property is central to theories of ownership, and previous findings suggest it could be a core feature of the psychology of ownership. However, we report six experiments on children (N = 480) and adults (N = 211) showing that this principle may not apply for actions that benefit the owner—actions like repairing broken property. In Experiment 1, 3–5-year-olds judged it more acceptable (...) for a nonowner to repair broken property than to move it. Experiments 2 and 3 replicated this with 4–6-year-olds using different question wordings and showed that children also approve of replacing broken property. Experiment 4 showed these findings replicate regardless of whether the nonowner and owner are acquainted. Finally, Experiments 5 and 6 revealed a boundary condition on approval of unsolicited beneficial actions: Both 4–6-year-olds and adults judged repairing property more acceptable than modifying it to suit the owner’s preferences. These findings suggest that restrictions on nonowners are less absolute than often claimed, and that participants’ judgments depended on generic information about which actions are typically beneficial, rather than on consideration of owners’ specific preferences. (shrink)
Although people own myriad objects, land, and even ideas, it is currently illegal to own other humans. This reluctance to view people as property raises interesting questions about our conceptions of people and about our conceptions of ownership. We suggest that one factor contributing to this reluctance is that humans are normally considered to be autonomous, and autonomy is incompatible with being owned by someone else. To investigate whether autonomy impacts judgments of ownership, participants recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk read (...) vignettes where a person paid for an entity or created it. Participants were less likely to judge that the entity was owned when it was described as autonomous compared with when it was described as non-autonomous, and this pattern held regardless of whether the entity was a human or an alien, a robot, or a human-like biological creation. The effect of autonomy was specific to judgments of whether entities were owned, and it did not influence judgments of the moral acceptability of paying for and keeping entities. These experiments also found that judgments of ownership were separately impacted by ontological type, with participants less likely to judge that humans are owned compared with other kinds of entities. A fourth experiment tested a further prediction of the autonomy account, and showed that participants are more likely to view a person as owned if he willingly sells himself. Together these findings show that attributions of autonomy constrain judgments of what can be owned. 2017 APA, all rights reserved). (shrink)
Hoerl & McCormack suggest that saving tools does not require temporal reasoning. However, we identify a class of objects that are only possessed in anticipation of future needs. We propose that investigating these future-oriented objects may help identify temporal reasoning in populations where this ability is uncertain.
Mindreading often requires access to beliefs, so the mindreading system should be able to self-attribute beliefs, even without self-interpretation. This proposal is consistent with Carruthers' claim that mindreading and metacognition depend on the same cognitive system and the same information as one another; and it may be more consistent with this claim than is Carruthers' account of metacognition.
Boyer & Petersen suggest that folk-economic beliefs result from evolved domain-specific cognitive systems concerned with social exchange. However, a major challenge for their account is that each folk-economic belief can be explained by different combinations of evolved cognitive systems. We illustrate this by offering alternative explanations for several economic beliefs they discuss.