Does the Blame Blocking Effect for Assignments of Punishment Generalize to Legal Experts?

AbstractThe paper investigates the blame blocking effect with respect to assignments of punishments and pursues the question of whether the effect generalizes to people with legal education. The blame blocking effect predicts that an agent is punished more severely when an intendedly harmful action does not lead to harm, compared to the case in which the harm results but is caused independently of the agent (Cushman, 2008). Firstly, we replicate the blame blocking effect for people without legal education. Secondly, our findings indicate that this effect is not present in people with a sufficient degree of legal training: In contrast to first-year students – who still seem to exhibit blame blocking – the effect was not observed for people with more than one year of legal education.


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