Judgments about moral responsibility and determinism in patients with behavioural variant of frontotemporal dementia: Still compatibilists

Consciousness and Cognition 21 (2):851-864 (2012)
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Do laypeople think that moral responsibility is compatible with determinism? Recently, philosophers and psychologists trying to answer this question have found contradictory results: while some experiments reveal people to have compatibilist intuitions, others suggest that people could in fact be incompatibilist. To account for this contradictory answers, Nichols and Knobe (2007) have advanced a ‘performance error model’ according to which people are genuine incompatibilist that are sometimes biased to give compatibilist answers by emotional reactions. To test for this hypothesis, we investigated intuitions about determinism and moral responsibility in patients suffering from behavioural frontotemporal dementia. Patients suffering from bvFTD have impoverished emotional reaction. Thus, the ‘performance error model’ should predict that bvFTD patients will give less compatibilist answers. However, we found that bvFTD patients give answers quite similar to subjects in control group and were mostly compatibilist. Thus, we conclude that the ‘performance error model’ should be abandoned in favour of other available model that best fit our data.

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Sacha Bourgeois-Gironde
Institut Jean Nicod


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