Mental control and attributions of blame for negligent wrongdoing.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Third-personal judgments of blame are typically sensitive to what an agent knows and desires. However, when people act negligently, they do not know what they are doing and do not desire the outcomes of their negligence. How, then, do people attribute blame for negligent wrongdoing? We propose that people attribute blame for negligent wrongdoing based on perceived mental control , or the degree to which an agent guides their thoughts and attention over time. To acquire information about others' mental control, people self-project their own perceived mental control to anchor third-personal judgments about mental control and concomitant responsibility for negligent wrongdoing. In four experiments (N = 841), we tested whether perceptions of mental control drive third-personal judgments of blame for negligent wrongdoing. Study 1 showed that the ease with which people can counterfactually imagine an individual being non-negligent mediated the relationship between judgments of control and blame. Studies 2a and 2b indicated that perceived mental control has a strong effect on judgments of blame for negligent wrongdoing and that first-personal judgments of mental control are moderately correlated with third-personal judgments of blame for negligent wrongdoing. Finally, we used an autobiographical memory manipulation in Study 3 to make personal episodes of forgetfulness salient. Participants for whom past personal episodes of forgetfulness were made salient judged negligent wrongdoers less harshly compared with a control group for whom past episodes of negligence were not salient. Collectively, these findings suggest that first-personal judgments of mental control drive third-personal judgments of blame for negligent wrongdoing and indicate a novel role for counterfactual thinking in the attribution of responsibility. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Murray, S; Krasich, K; Irving, Z; Nadelhoffer, T; De Brigard, F

Published Date

  • August 2022

Published In

PubMed ID

  • 35913874

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1939-2222

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0096-3445

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1037/xge0001262

Language

  • eng