Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1989960
 
 

Citations (1)



 


 



Blaming as a Social Process: The Influence of Character and Moral Emotion on Blame


Janice Nadler


Northwestern University School of Law; American Bar Foundation

January 20, 2012

Law & Contemporary Problems, Forthcoming
Northwestern Law & Econ Research Paper No. 12-01
Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 12-01

Abstract:     
For the most part, the law eschews the role of moral character in legal blame. But when we observe an actor who causes harm, legal and psychological blame processes are in tension. Procedures for legal blame assume an assessment of the actor’s mental state, and ultimately of responsibility, that is independent of the moral character of the actor. In this paper, I present experimental evidence to suggest that perceptions of intent, foreseeability, and possibly causation can be colored by independent reasons for thinking the actor is a bad person, and are mediated by the experience of negative moral emotion. Our emotional reactions are not only a product of the act and the outcome, but also a product of inferences about the general virtuousness of the person who performed the act that caused the harm. Remarkably, this result holds true even though the mental state of the actor was clearly specified.

As observers, we give the benefit of the doubt to a person with a virtuous character who causes harm; we perceive his actions as less intentional and perhaps even less causal, and the harm less foreseeable than if his character is flawed. Remarkably, it seems that we do not deliberately use character information to inform responsibility judgments, for when differences in character are made explicit, we moderate our judgments so that we hold the virtuous harmdoer equally responsible as the ignoble harmdoer.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 42

Keywords: blame, responsibility, character, moral reasoning, motive, motivated reasoning

JEL Classification: K10, K30, K49

Accepted Paper Series





Download This Paper

Date posted: January 23, 2012  

Suggested Citation

Nadler, Janice, Blaming as a Social Process: The Influence of Character and Moral Emotion on Blame (January 20, 2012). Law & Contemporary Problems, Forthcoming; Northwestern Law & Econ Research Paper No. 12-01; Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 12-01. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1989960

Contact Information

Janice Nadler (Contact Author)
Northwestern University School of Law ( email )
375 E. Chicago Ave
Unit 1505
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-503-3228 (Phone)
312-503-2035 (Fax)
American Bar Foundation ( email )
750 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
Feedback to SSRN


Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 1,222
Downloads: 163
Download Rank: 107,977
Citations:  1
People who downloaded this paper also downloaded:
1. Moral Character, Motive, and the Psychology of Blame
By Janice Nadler and Mary-hunter Mcdonnell

Paper comments
No comments have been made on this paper

© 2014 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollo8 in 0.250 seconds