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Causal Responsibility and Robust Causation

Grinfeld, G; Lagnado, D; Gerstenberg, T; Woodward, JF; Usher, M; (2020) Causal Responsibility and Robust Causation. Frontiers in Psychology , 11 , Article 1069. 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01069. Green open access

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Abstract

How do people judge the degree of causal responsibility that an agent has for the outcomes of her actions? We show that a relatively unexplored factor – the robustness (or stability) of the causal chain linking the agent’s action and the outcome – influences judgments of causal responsibility of the agent. In three experiments, we vary robustness by manipulating the number of background circumstances under which the action causes the effect, and find that causal responsibility judgments increase with robustness. In the first experiment, the robustness manipulation also raises the probability of the effect given the action. Experiments 2 and 3 control for probability-raising, and show that robustness still affects judgments of causal responsibility. In particular, Experiment 3 introduces an Ellsberg type of scenario to manipulate robustness, while keeping the conditional probability and the skill deployed in the action fixed. Experiment 4, replicates the results of Experiment 3, while contrasting between judgments of causal strength and of causal responsibility. The results show that in all cases, the perceived degree of responsibility (but not of causal strength) increases with the robustness of the action-outcome causal chain.

Type: Article
Title: Causal Responsibility and Robust Causation
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01069
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01069
Language: English
Additional information: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Keywords: causality and responsibility, attributions of responsibility, robust causation, causal contingency and stability, epistemic perspective
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10102263
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