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Motive on the mind: Explanatory preferences at multiple stages of the legal-investigative process

Liefgreen, A; Yousif, SR; Keil, FC; Lagnado, DA; (2021) Motive on the mind: Explanatory preferences at multiple stages of the legal-investigative process. Cognition , 217 , Article 104892. 10.1016/j.cognition.2021.104892.

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Abstract

Much work has investigated explanatory preferences for things like animals and artifacts, but how do explanation preferences manifest in everyday life? Here, we focus on the criminal justice system as a case study. In this domain, outcomes critically depend on how actors in the system (e.g., lawyers, jurors) generate and interpret explanations. We investigate lay preferences for two difference classes of information: information that appeals to opportunistic aspects of a crime (i.e., how the culprit could have committed the crime) vs. motivational aspects of that crime (i.e., the purpose for committing the crime). In two studies, we demonstrate that people prefer 'motive' accounts of crimes (analogous to a teleology preference) at different stages of the investigative process. In an additional two studies we demonstrate that these preferences are context-sensitive: namely, we find that 'motive' information tends to be more incriminating and less exculpatory. We discuss these findings in light of a broad literature on the cognitive basis of explanatory preferences; specifically, we draw analogy to preferences for teleological vs. mechanistic explanations. We also discuss implications for the criminal justice system.

Type: Article
Title: Motive on the mind: Explanatory preferences at multiple stages of the legal-investigative process
Location: Netherlands
DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2021.104892
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2021.104892
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Belief updating, Evidential reasoning, Explanation, Motive, Sense-making, Teleology
UCL classification: UCL
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/10137264
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