Tomorrow (Monday, September 21), the Student Association for Law and Mind Sciences (SALMS) at Harvard Law School is hosting a talk, titled “Outcome vs. Intent: Which Do We Punish and Why?,” by Professor Fiery Cushman. The abstract for the talk is as follows:
Sometimes people cause harm accidentally; other times they attempt to cause harm, but fail. How do ordinary people treat cases where intentions and outcomes are mismatched? Dr. Cushman will present a series of studies suggesting that while people’s judgments of moral wrongness depend overwhelmingly on an assessment of intent, their judgments of deserved punishment exhibit substantial reliance on accidental outcomes as well. This pattern of behavior is present at an early age and consistent across both survey-based and behavioral economic paradigms. These findings raise a question about the function of our moral psychology: why do we judge moral wrongness and deserved punishment by different standards? Dr. Cushman will present evidence that punishment is sensitive to accidental outcomes in part because it is designed to teach social partners not to engage in harmful behaviors and because teaching on the basis of outcomes is more effective than teaching on the basis of intentions.
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The event will take place in Hauser 104 at Harvard Law School, from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Attributing Blame — from the Baseball Diamond to the War on Terror,” “John Darley on ‘Justice as Intuitions’ – Video,” “The Situation of Punishment in Schools,” “Why We Punish,” “Kevin Jon Heller on The Cognitive Psychology of Mens Rea,” “Mark Lanier visits Professor Jon Hanson’s Tort Class (web cast),” and “Situationist Torts – Abstract.”