Acting intentionally and the side-effect effect: 'Theory of mind' and moral judgment

Psychological Science 17:421-427 (2006)
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Abstract

The concept of acting intentionally is an important nexus where ‘theory of mind’ and moral judgment meet. Preschool children’s judgments of intentional action show a valence-driven asymmetry. Children say that a foreseen but disavowed side-effect is brought about 'on purpose' when the side-effect itself is morally bad but not when it is morally good. This is the first demonstration in preschoolers that moral judgment influences judgments of ‘on-purpose’ (as opposed to purpose influencing moral judgment). Judgments of intentional action are usually assumed to be purely factual. That these judgments are sometimes partly normative — even in preschoolers — challenges current understanding. Young children’s judgments regarding foreseen side-effects depend upon whether the children process the idea that the character does not care about the side-effect. As soon as preschoolers effectively process the ‘theory of mind’ concept, NOT CARE THAT P, children show the side-effect effect.idea..

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Author Profiles

Joshua Knobe
Yale University
Alan M. Leslie
Rutgers University - New Brunswick

Citations of this work

Person as scientist, person as moralist.Joshua Knobe - 2010 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33 (4):315.
Universal moral grammar: Theory, evidence, and the future.John Mikhail - 2007 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 11 (4):143 –152.
The past and future of experimental philosophy.Thomas Nadelhoffer & Eddy Nahmias - 2007 - Philosophical Explorations 10 (2):123 – 149.

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References found in this work

Nicomachean Ethics.Terence Irwin & Aristotle of Stagira - 1999 - Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.
The Moral Judgement of the Child.Jean Piaget - 1933 - Philosophy 8 (31):373-374.

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