Blame for Hum(e)an beings: The role of character information in judgments of blame

Social Psychological and Personality Science (forthcoming)
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Abstract

How does character information inform judgments of blame? Some argue that character information is indirectly relevant to blame because it enriches judgments about the mental states of a wrongdoer. Others argue that character information is directly relevant to blame, even when character traits are causally irrelevant to the wrongdoing. We propose an empirical synthesis of these views: a Two Channel Model of blame. The model predicts that character information directly affects blame when this information is relevant to the wrongdoing that elicits blame. Further, the effect of character information on blame depends on judgments about the true self that are independent of judgments of intentionality. Across three pre-registered studies (N = 662), we found support for all three predictions of the Two Channel Model. We propose that this reflects two distinct functions of blame: a social regulatory function that encourages norm compliance and a pedagogical function that encourages personal improvement.

Author Profiles

Jordan Bridges
Rutgers - New Brunswick
Samuel Murray
Providence College
Zachary C. Irving
University of Virginia

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