When Does Knowledge Become Intent? Perceiving the Minds of Wrongdoers
34 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2012
Date Written: December 2012
In a series of experimental studies, we asked people to assign appropriate civil and/or criminal liability to individuals who cause harm with various culpable states of mind and kinds of knowledge. The studies are principally aimed at two related issues. First, do people actually separate the various states of mind conceptually? How much knowledge, and what kind of knowledge, regarding something that may go wrong (understanding risk) is sufficient to count as knowing that something will go wrong (having knowledge legally equivalent to intent)? Second, to the extent that people distinguish among the states of mind that help define normative behavior, how much do those distinctions contribute to people's judgments of civil liability? 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 “hot” moral judgments play a larger role than do their “cold” cognitive categorizations.
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