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Title: Weighing Outcome vs. Intent Across Societies: How cultural models of mind shape moral reasoning
Authors: McNamara, RA
Willard, AK
Norenzayan, A
Henrich, J
Keywords: Morality;mentalizing;theory of mind;cross-cultural comparisons
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Elsevier
Citation: Cognition
Abstract: Mental state reasoning has been theorized as a core feature of how we navigate our social worlds, and as especially vital to moral reasoning. Judgments of moral wrong-doing and punish worthiness often hinge upon evaluations of the perpetrator’s mental states. In two studies, we examine how differences in cultural conceptions about how one should think about others’ minds influence the relative importance of intent vs. outcome in moral judgments. We recruit participation from three societies, differing in emphasis on mental state reasoning: Indigenous iTaukei Fijians from Yasawa Island (Yasawans) who normatively avoid mental state inference in favor of focus on relationships and consequences of actions; Indo-Fijians who normatively emphasize relationships but do not avoid mental state inference; and North Americans who emphasize individual autonomy and interpreting others’ behaviors as the direct result of mental states. In study 1, Yasawan participants placed more emphasis on outcome than Indo-Fijians or North Americans by judging accidents more harshly than failed attempts. Study 2 tested whether underlying differences in the salience of mental states drives study 1 effects by inducing Yasawan and North American participants to think about thoughts vs. actions before making moral judgments. When induced to think about thoughts, Yasawan participants shifted to judge failed attempts more harshly than accidents. Results suggest that culturally-transmitted concepts about how to interpret the social world shape patterns of moral judgments, possibly via mental state inference.
ISSN: 0010-0277
Appears in Collections:Dept of Life Sciences Embargoed Research Papers

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