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The Asymmetry of Praise and Blame: Distinguishing between Moral Evaluation Effects and Scenario Effects

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AbstractObservers are said to blame actors for causing bad side-effects more than they reward them for causing good ones (Knobe, 2003). We show that moral appraisals play a less crucial role in the attribution of intentionality and judgments than previously suggested. Instead, the negativity or positivity of a consequence constitute a scenario effect, accounting for biased intentionality attributions and judgments. Moreover, moral appraisals are reinforced by actors signaling norm adherence, e.g., caring about information on action consequences. This affects the propensity to attribute intentionality. Our results suggest that the praise-blame bias persists even if observers do not make moral judgements.

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