The question of how people hold others responsible has motivated decades of theorizing and empirical work. In this paper, we develop and test a computational model that bridges the gap between broad but qualitative framework theories, and quantitative but narrow models. In our model, responsibility judgments are the result of two cognitive processes: a dispositional inference about a person’s character from their action, and a causal attribution about the person’s role in bringing about the outcome. We test the model in a group setting in which political committee members vote on whether or not a policy should be passed. We assessed participants’ dispositional inferences and causal attributions by asking how surprising and important a committee member’s vote was. Participants’ answers to these questions in Experiment 1 accurately predicted responsibility judgments in Experiment 2. In Experiments 3 and 4, we show that the model also predicts moral responsibility judgments, and that importance matters more for responsibility, while surprise matters more for judgments of wrongfulness.
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