Intentionality, Foreseeability, and Cognitive Load Differently Affect the Cause and Blame Judgments


In two experiments, participants were asked to rate the causality and the blameworthiness of an actor in each of eight events, varying in intentionality and the foreseeability of the results. The blameworthiness rating was lower than the causality rating. Furthermore, the actor was judged less blameworthy when the actor was not intentional and when the result was not foreseeable. Cognitive load was manipulated in Experiment 2, to check whether any of the factors can be moderated by System 2 processes. Major findings of Experiment 1 were replicated. In addition, the difference between the two judgments was larger in the control condition than the two cognitive load conditions. The discounting effects of intentionality and the foreseeability were also larger in the control condition. Results of the two experiments were interpreted to suggest that intentionality and foreseeability work as discounting factors for blameworthiness especially when there is no cognitive load.

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