CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Nadler on the Path of Motivated Blame and the Complexities of Intent

Nadler janiceJanice Nadler (Northwestern University School of Law) has posted The Path of Motivated Blame and the Complexities of Intent (Psychological Inquiry, Forthcoming) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Much headway has been made in recent years on topics in moral psychology, including: the foundations of virtuous and evil behavior, the source of moral rules and standards, the mechanisms by which conscience operates, the nature of psychopathology, the extent to which and circumstances under which moral judgments are intuitive as opposed to a product of careful reasoning, and the nature of strong moral convictions and moral disagreement.

One topic that has been recently receiving more systematic attention is the psychology of blame.

In their recent paper, Malle, Gugliemo & Monroe (2014) provide a comprehensive model of blame and a wide ranging discussion of evidence supporting the model. The model provides a powerful account of moral judgment of blame, but it also has some limitations and areas where clarification is needed. First, the model goes too far in its effort to minimize or even banish the role of motivation in blame judgments. It would be surprising indeed if blame was immune from being part of the wide ranging domain of motivated cognition. Second, even relatively simple instances of blame often necessitate breaking down an event into several acts and outcomes, and identifying different mental states with respect to those events and outcomes that occur within the mind of a single actor. This more fine grained analysis is necessary to illustrate how the Path Model of Blame operates according to its own terms, and also to reveal how the model needs to be extended and enriched to account for many everyday morally-charged acts.

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