When Does Knowledge Become Intent?: Perceiving the Minds of Wrongdoers
44 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2011 Last revised: 6 Feb 2014
Date Written: July 12, 2011
In a series of experimental studies, we asked people to assign appropriate civil and/or criminal liability to individuals who cause harm with various states of mind and kinds of knowledge. The studies are principally aimed at two puzzles: First, do people actually separate the various states of mind conceptually? How much knowledge, and what kind of knowledge, regarding something may go wrong (understanding risk) is sufficient to count as knowing that something will go wrong (having knowledge)? Second, to the extent that people distinguish among the states of mind that help to define normative behavior, how much do those distinctions contribute to people’s judgments of liability, both criminal and civil? Our studies show that people are able to make explicit distinctions about the states of mind of others that more or less correspond to legally-relevant categories. Yet, when asked to assign consequences, their moral judgments play a larger role than do their cognitive categorizations.
Keywords: intent, knowledge, law and psychology, morality
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