Knowledge ascriptions and the psychological consequences of changing stakes

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 86 (2):279-294 (2008)
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Abstract
Why do our intuitive knowledge ascriptions shift when a subject's practical interests are mentioned? Many efforts to answer this question have focused on empirical linguistic evidence for context sensitivity in knowledge claims, but the empirical psychology of belief formation and attribution also merits attention. The present paper examines a major psychological factor (called ?need-for-closure?) relevant to ascriptions involving practical interests. Need-for-closure plays an important role in determining whether one has a settled belief; it also influences the accuracy of one's cognition. Given these effects, it is a mistake to assume that high- and low-stakes subjects provided with the same initial evidence are perceived to enjoy belief formation that is the same as far as truth-conducive factors are concerned. This mistaken assumption has underpinned contextualist and interest-relative invariantist treatments of cases in which contrasting knowledge ascriptions are elicited by descriptions of subjects with the same initial information and different stakes. The paper argues that intellectualist invariantism can easily accommodate such cases
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