Getting to know you: Accuracy and error in judgments of character

Mind and Language 35 (5):583-600 (2019)
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Abstract

Character judgments play an important role in our everyday lives. However, decades of empirical research on trait attribution suggest that the cognitive processes that generate these judgments are prone to a number of biases and cognitive distortions. This gives rise to a skeptical worry about the epistemic foundations of everyday characterological beliefs that has deeply disturbing and alienating consequences. In this paper, I argue that this skeptical worry is misplaced: under the appropriate informational conditions, our everyday character-trait judgments are in fact quite trustworthy. I then propose a mindreading-based model of the socio-cognitive processes underlying trait attribution that explains both why these judgments are initially unreliable, and how they eventually become more accurate.

Author's Profile

Evan Westra
Purdue University

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