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Predicting Premeditation: Future Behavior is Seen as More Intentional than Past Behavior

Journal of Experimental Psychology: General

Columbia Business School Research Paper No. 11-14

6 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2011  

Zachary C. Burns

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Eugene M. Caruso

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Daniel M. Bartels

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 24, 2011

Abstract

People’s intuitions about the underlying causes of past and future actions might not be the same. In 3 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 was partly explained by the stronger emotional reactions that were elicited in response to future actions than in response to past actions. We consider the implications of this temporal asymmetry for legal decision making and theories of attribution more generally.

Keywords: intention, time, past and future, attribution

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 (June 24, 2011). Journal of Experimental Psychology: General; Columbia Business School Research Paper No. 11-14. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1938419

Zachary C. Burns

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Eugene M. Caruso

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 South Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Daniel M. Bartels (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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