22 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2011
Date Written: July 5, 2011
People‟s intuitions about the underlying causes of past and future actions might not be the same. In three studies, we demonstrate that people judge the same behavior as more intentional when it will be performed in the future than when it has been performed in the past. We found this temporal asymmetry in perceptions of both the strength of an individual‟s intention and the overall prevalence of intentional behavior in a population. Because of its heightened intentionality, people thought the same transgression deserved more severe punishment when it would occur in the future than when it did occur in the past. The difference in judgments of both intentionality and punishment were partly explained by the stronger emotional reactions that were elicited in response to future actions than past actions. We consider the implications of this temporal asymmetry for legal decision making and theories of attribution more generally.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Burns, Zachary C. and Caruso, Eugene M. and Bartels, Daniel M., Predicting Premeditation: Future Behavior is Seen as More Intentional than Past Behavior (July 5, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1879558 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1879558