Two Distinct Moral Mechanisms for Ascribing and Denying Intentionality.
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Philosophers and legal scholars have long theorized about how intentionality serves as a critical input for morality and culpability, but the emerging field of experimental philosophy has revealed a puzzling asymmetry. People judge actions leading to negative consequences as being more intentional than those leading to positive ones. The implications of this asymmetry remain unclear because there is no consensus regarding the underlying mechanism. Based on converging behavioral and neural evidence, we demonstrate that there is no single underlying mechanism. Instead, two distinct mechanisms together generate the asymmetry. Emotion drives ascriptions of intentionality for negative consequences, while the consideration of statistical norms leads to the denial of intentionality for positive consequences. We employ this novel two-mechanism model to illustrate that morality can paradoxically shape judgments of intentionality. This is consequential for mens rea in legal practice and arguments in moral philosophy pertaining to terror bombing, abortion, and euthanasia among others.
Published Version (Please cite this version)10.1038/srep17390
Publication InfoNgo, Lawrence; Kelly, Meagan; Coutlee, Christopher G; Carter, R McKell; Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter; & Huettel, Scott A (2015). Two Distinct Moral Mechanisms for Ascribing and Denying Intentionality. Sci Rep, 5. pp. 17390. 10.1038/srep17390. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/11093.
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Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
Research in my laboratory investigates the brain mechanisms underlying economic and social decision making; collectively, this research falls into the field of “decision neuroscience” or "neuroeconomics". My laboratory uses fMRI to probe brain function, behavioral assays to characterize individual differences, and other physiological methods (e.g., eye tracking, pharmacological manipulation, genetics) to link brain and behavior. Concurrent with research on basic processes, my labo
Chauncey Stillman Distinguished Professor of Practical Ethics
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong is Chauncey Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics in the Department of Philosophy and the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. He has secondary appointments in the Law School and the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, and he is core faculty in the Duke Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, the <a href
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