The dynamics of responsibility judgment: Joint role of causal explanations based on dependence and transference
Sofia Bonicalzi, Eugenia Kulakova, Chiara Brozzo, Sam J. Gilbert & Patrick Haggard, "The dynamics of responsibility judgment: Joint role of causal explanations based on dependence and transference" In Philosophical Psychology, 2022.
Reasoning about underlying causal relations drives responsibility judgments: agents are held responsible for the outcomes they cause through their behaviors. Two main causal reasoning approaches exist: dependence theories emphasize statistical relations between causes and effects, while transference theories emphasize mechanical transmission of energy. Recently, pluralistic or hybrid models, combining both approaches, have emerged as promising psychological frameworks. In this paper, we focus on causal reasoning as involved in third-party judgments of responsibility and on related judgments of intention and control. In particular, we used a novel visual paradigm to investigate the combined effects of two well-known causal manipulations, namely omission and preemption, on these evaluations. Our findings support the view that people apply a pluralistic causal reasoning when evaluating individual responsibility for negative outcomes. In particular, we observed diminished responsibility when dependence, transference, or both fail, compared to when these mechanisms are upheld. Responsibility judgment involves a cognitive hybrid of multiple aspects of causal reasoning. However, important differences exist at the interindividual level, with most people weighting transference more than dependence.
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