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How much should the people know? Implications of methodological choices in the study of intentionality and blame ascriptions

Description: Several studies have shown that people are more likely to attribute intentionality and blame to agents who perform actions that have harmful consequences. This kind of bias has problematic implications for jury decisions because it predicts that judgment in juries will malfunction if an action has a blameworthy effect. Most of these studies include in their design a vignette in which it is clear that agents have foreknowledge of the effects of their actions. This kind of design fails to replicate trial situations where, in most cases, it is impossible to know with certainty whether agents have foreknowledge of the effects of their actions. In the present study, we adopt an alternative design that includes vignettes in which there is no direct evidence of foreknowledge to investigate the relationship between intentionality and blame in actions that have harmful and helpful effects. We find that people are still more likely to attribute intentionality to actions that produce harmful effects than actions that produce good effects. However, we find that people tend to attribute more blame when they have direct evidence of foreknowledge than when presented with an alternative design that does not include foreknowledge. Results indicate the relevant role that evidence of foreknowledge plays in experimental designs that study blame attribution.

Suggested Citation:
Botero, M., Buccafurni-Huber, D., & Desforges. D. (2016). How much should the people know? Implications of methodological choices in the study of intentionality and blame ascriptions [Electronic Version]. Applied Psychology in Criminal Justice, 12(2), 101-113.

Keywords: foreknowledge, blame, intentionality, methods

Date: Dec 12, 2016 | File Size: 278.81 Kb | Downloads: 191

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