Culpable Causation

  • Alicke M
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"Culpable causation" refers to the influence of the perceived blameworthiness of an action on judgments of its causal impact on a harmful outcome. Four studies were conducted to show that when multiple forces contribute to an unfortunate outcome, people select the most blameworthy act as the prepotent causal factor. In Study 1, an actor was cited more frequently as the primary cause of an accident when his reason for speeding was to hide a vial of cocaine than when it was to hide his parents' anniversary gift. In Study 2, of the 4 acts that produced an unfortunate outcome, the most blameworthy act was cited as the factor with the greatest causal impact. Study 3 found that greater causal influence was perceived throughout a causal chain when the act that engaged the chain was positive rather than negative. Finally, Study 4 found that both traditional causal factors (i.e., necessity and sufficiency) and culpable factors influenced perceived causation.

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  • Mark D. Alicke

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