Friday, September 30th, 2011 [08:30 - 08:50]
Reasoning about other people’s intentions: the side effect phenomenon
School of Psychology and Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity College Dublin, University of Dublin, Ireland
We examine how people reason about other people’s intentions in two experiments designed to test factors that underlie the well-known ‘side effect’ phenomenon. Participants’ judgments about an actor who decided to introduce a new company program which would increase profits and which would also affect the environment show an intriguing asymmetry: they judge the actor to have intentionally harmed the environment when the outcome is negative, but they do not judge him to have intentionally helped the environment when the outcome is positive. The first experiment shows that the effect occurs even when the actor had no foreknowledge of the outcome. The second experiment shows that the actor is judged to have intentionally brought about the negative outcome, even when he had the desire to bring about a good outcome. We discuss the implications of the results for alternative theories of reasoning about intentionality.