Causal Supersession

Jonathan KominskyYale University
Jonathan PhillipsYale University
Tobias GerstenbergMassachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
David LagnadoUniversity College London
Joshua KnobeYale University

Abstract

When agents violate norms, they are typically judged to be more of a cause of resulting outcomes. In this study, we suggest that norm violations also reduce the causality of other agents, a novel phenomenon we refer to as “causal supersession.” We propose and test a counterfactual reasoning model of this phenomenon in three experiments. Experiment 1 shows that causal judgments of one actor are reduced when another actor violates moral norms, even when the outcome in question is neutral. Experiment 2 shows that this causal supersession effect is dependent on a particular event structure, following a prediction of our counterfactual model. Experiment 3 demonstrates that causal supersession can occur with violation of non-moral norms.

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