Predicting responsibility judgments from dispositional inferences and causal attributions

Abstract

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.

Publication
A. F. Langenhoff, A. Wiegmann, J. Y. Halpern, J. B. Tenenbaum, & T. Gerstenberg (2021). Predicting responsibility judgments from dispositional inferences and causal attributions. Cognitive Psychology
Date

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