Asymmetries in Judgments of Responsibility and Intentional Action

Authors

  • JENNIFER COLE WRIGHT,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychology
      College of Charleston
      Jennifer Wright, Department of Psychology, College of Charleston, 65 Coming Street, Office #104, Charleston, SC 29424, USA; John Bengson, Department of Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station, C3500 Austin, TX 78712, USA.
      Email: wrightjj1@cofc.edu; jsteele@mail.utexas.edu
    Search for more papers by this author
  • JOHN BENGSON

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Philosophy
      University of Texas at Austin
      Jennifer Wright, Department of Psychology, College of Charleston, 65 Coming Street, Office #104, Charleston, SC 29424, USA; John Bengson, Department of Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station, C3500 Austin, TX 78712, USA.
      Email: wrightjj1@cofc.edu; jsteele@mail.utexas.edu
    Search for more papers by this author

  • Thanks to Jonathan Dancy, Shaun Nichols, Mark Phelan, George Sher, Ed Sherline, and especially Joshua Knobe for helpful comments and discussion. We are also grateful to two anonymous reviewers for Mind & Language, as well as audiences and commentators at the 2006 Mountain-Plains Philosophy Conference and 2007 Central APA. Finally, we wish to thank Christin Covello, Jerry Cullum, Bill Devlin, and Piper Grandjean for assistance with data collection/entry.

Jennifer Wright, Department of Psychology, College of Charleston, 65 Coming Street, Office #104, Charleston, SC 29424, USA; John Bengson, Department of Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station, C3500 Austin, TX 78712, USA.
Email: wrightjj1@cofc.edu; jsteele@mail.utexas.edu

Abstract

Abstract:  Recent experimental research on the ‘Knobe effect’ suggests, somewhat surprisingly, that there is a bi-directional relation between attributions of intentional action and evaluative considerations. We defend a novel account of this phenomenon that exploits two factors: (i) an intuitive asymmetry in judgments of responsibility (e.g. praise/blame) and (ii) the fact that intentionality commonly connects the evaluative status of actions to the responsibility of actors. We present the results of several new studies that provide empirical evidence in support of this account while disconfirming various currently prominent alternative accounts. We end by discussing some implications of this account for folk psychology.

Ancillary