A Theory of Causal Responsibility Attribution

63 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2017 Last revised: 31 Oct 2022

See all articles by Florian Engl

Florian Engl

University of Regensburg - Department of Economics and Econometrics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 31, 2022

Abstract

People often act out of a desire to be responsible for good and not for bad events. Similarly, people frequently reward and punish other people if they perceive them to be responsible for events that they like or dislike. When the implementation of an event depends on the interaction of multiple persons and, potentially, moves of nature, the determinants of such responsibility perceptions are not well understood. In this paper, I propose a notion of causal responsibility which attempts to objectively capture the causal importance of a person’s action for the implementation of an event in such situations. A laboratory experiment shows that the notion successfully predicts people’s responsibility perceptions. Furthermore, I incorporate the notion in a framework of responsibility preferences and study its implications for worker motivation and the design of voting rules. Finally, I show that the notion can explain experimentally elicited behavior and punishment and reward patterns in multi-agent situations that are not well-explained by existing social preference theories.

Keywords: social preferences; responsibility; counterfactual thinking; uncertainty; causality

JEL Classification: C72, C91, D01, D63, D70

Suggested Citation

Engl, Florian, A Theory of Causal Responsibility Attribution (October 31, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2932769 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2932769

Florian Engl (Contact Author)

University of Regensburg - Department of Economics and Econometrics ( email )

Universitaetsstrasse 31
D-93040 Regensburg
Germany

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Downloads
427
Abstract Views
1,844
Rank
103,519
PlumX Metrics