Intentionality, Morality, and Their Relationship in Human Judgment

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture


This article explores several entanglements between human judgments of intentionality and morality (blame and praise). After proposing a model of people's folk concept of intentionality I discuss three topics. First, considerations of a behavior's intentionality affect people's praise and blame of that behavior, but one study suggests that there may be an asymmetry such that blame is more affected than praise. Second, the concept of intentionality is constitutive of many legal judgments (e.g., of murder vs. manslaughter), and one study illustrates people's subtle considerations of intentionality in making those judgments. Third, controversial recent studies suggest that moral considerations can affect judgments of intentionality, and an asymmetry may exist such that blame affects those judgments more than praise. I report two new studies that may shed light on these recent findings, and I discuss several theoretical models that might account for the impact of moral considerations on intentionality judgments and for the relationship between the two more generally.

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