The concept of intentional action, which is the notion of how people assign blame/ praise unto actions and how they consider them to be intentional or unintentional has been a subject of discussion within the area of philosophical theories of the mind and folk psychology. To investigate whether people assign moral considerations with regard to actions and how they consider them Intentional/unintentional, 6 people were given a 5 question questionnaire to gauge the extent to which they agreed/ disagreed or assigned blame/praise upon certain instances of moral decisions.
As hypothesized, moral considerations do play a role In how people consider acts to be intentional/ unintentional. These findings suggest that overall society, In part uses their subjective evaluation of morality based upon experience/ background/ culture to decide upon how acts at its core are moral or not and the actual Intentional value as such…
Introduction The sub-discipline of psychology known as “Folk Psychology’, seeks to evaluate the notion of how people think, feel and act, in regards to predicting, controlling and explanation of behavior “a theory of everyday human psychological competence: hat is, of the skills and resources people routinely call on in the anticipation, explanation, and social coordination of behavior” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2009). In this study I will be focusing on one aspect of folk psychology, that being the concept of Intentional action.
In society people often distinguish an canon based on whether it is intentional (such as picking up a pen) or unintentional between the two when moral considerations come into play. Meaning that when behavior is performed, people’s perception of that action may be influenced by what en considers to be morally right or wrong (good or bad). This is important in the area of folk psychology because of the role that folk psychology plays in seeking out explanation of behavior in regards to prediction of social normative perception.
Joshua Knob, who had originally designed this experiment, found that people assign blame to intentional actions negatively affecting morally “bad” situations (I. E. Killing a Person) whilst in the instance of helping someone “unintentionally’ many people assigned less praise towards the action and marked it down as unintentional. This concept has been coined as the “Knob Effect” However, a counter-argument to the Knob Effect proposed by Detoured Machinery, states that people who act in morally “bad” ways, do so to reap a foreseen benefit.
Put simply, it means that people act for the good of others overall and the sacrifice of many is worth the end outcome. “People conceptualize the side-effect in the harm case (and similar cases) as a foreseen cost that the agent described in the probe incurs in order to reap a foreseen benefit. Because people take costs to be intentionally incurred in order to EPA benefits, they answer that the side-effect has been intentionally brought about” (Machinery 2008).
To test the hypothesis that whether or not moral considerations play a role in deciding whether or not people assign praise or blame to certain instances of action, and also the notion of whether people assign blame/ praise based upon actions that act for the necessary outcomes, a questionnaire with 6 cases of intentional/unintentional actions were given to participants of varying age and were then gauged on their reactions towards these examples given.
As I have adhered from the notion of the “Knob Effect”, I predict that moral considerations will play a role in deciding how one chooses place blame/praise towards certain actions including that of the idea proposed by Machinery. Method The participants were 6 people of various ages, gender, but were all my own family members, including 3 males and 3 females. Participants volunteered in response to an e-mail sent out informing them of this experiment. All participants provided their consent prior to this study. A 5 question questionnaire was used, gauging the level f blame/praise the individuals felt towards certain situations.
Participants were asked to specify the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with a series of cases given. The questionnaires given were separated into two categories: Harm and Help. A sample question for “Harm” is, “This person killed his mother with luck”. A sample question for “Help” is, “This person won the contest with luck”. For each question, both a 5-point scale was used, from disagree (1) to agree (5), and a Yes or No indicator was used. Participants were told the study was to establish whether or not intentional. Participants were assigned into two groups – “Harm” and “Hurt” group.
In the “Harm” group, participants were asked questions with more action with negative intentional outcomes, whilst participants in the “Help” group, were given questions with less consequential outcomes. Results Table 1 Results of the Questionnaire – Quantitative data representing mean results of the answers given with the 5-rating scale – Qualitative answers representing mean result of the Yes-or-No rating scale. As is shown in Table 1, participants in the “Harm” group answered Question IA with a mean score of 4, whilst the “Help” group answered with a mean rating of 3.
This study examined whether or not moral deliberations played a part in people’s perception on what is intentional or not. Participants were given a 6 questions questionnaire to gauge the extent to which they perceived certain instances of actions both intentional/unintentional and the moral claims that they each though one should receive via blame/praise. The results supported the hypothesis that moral considerations do play a part in how one perceives intentional or unintentional acts with regard to moral blame/praise.
Unpacking Question 1 + 2 – CEO + Lieutenant In question 1 and 2 – participants were given two similar cases which involve the CEO hurting/harming the environment and a lieutenant killing/saving his soldiers – in the case of the CEO harming the environment and the Lieutenant killing his soldiers – the response was that it was intentionally done and the blame towards them was high – whilst with the Help group, the response to helping the environment and saving the soldiers was that the CEO and the lieutenant had done it unintentionally and they received not as much praise for doing so.
Going by these results – it is indicative that moral considerations play a role in determining whether or not behavior is intentional or not. Furthermore – in these 2 cases, we also evaluate the status of side- effects and the role they play in intentional acts. The results also show that the acts are only intentional if they bring about bad side-effects and the opposite that they were unintentional for having good side-effects. Therefore it seems that people are more inclined to decide that side-effects are intentional due to the fact that it is bad. Unpacking Question 3 – Darts Gerry and Frank)
It is often the case in the debate surrounding the concept of intentional action that “trying” is a necessary factor in doing something intentionally. – Therefore the next question involving the case of Frank and Jerry throwing darts shows whether or not Jerry trying to throw the darts where he lacks the skill to do so and whether or not simply trying is intentional. In the case of the Harm group – where Jerry does have the ability to hit the Triple 20 reliably, participants responded that although he was trying – he was not intentionally trying to hit the mark.
Whilst the Help group spooned mostly with that Yes he was trying and that Yes he was intentionally trying to hit the triple 20 even though he missed. The results of this case seem to indicate an anomaly, in that although Jerry hit the dart on his second throw, it was still not considered intentional whilst although he missed – it was considered intentional that he was trying to hit the triple 20. This may demonstrate that people may assign more to the act of “trying” with or without a skill component, in regards to whether or not an act is intentional or not. Unpacking Question 4 – Aunt + Rifle Contest
In the case of Question 4 – we are given the example of Jake Killing his aunt (for the Harm group) – whilst in the case of the Help group we are given a rifle contest – The amount of Blame towards Jake for killing his aunt was considerably higher than that indicated that Jake Intentionally killed his aunt whilst unintentionally winning the contest although both were trying to do so respectively. These results indicate that that people yet again despite the change of scenes from killing his aunt to the rifle contest – moral considerations play a defining role into what people may consider intentional or not.
Jake was considered lucky to have won the contest and thus unintentionally won the contest whilst in the case of the killing of Sake’s Aunt he intentionally killed his aunt. Unpacking Question 5 Lastly to further illustrate the role that luck and trying – in the case of Jake winning the lottery both the Help and Harm group put little praise towards Jake winning the lottery and both groups similarly respond that Jake Unintentionally Won whilst also Intentionally winning at the same time.
So in this case – that if there are no negative side-effects to an action, there seem to be little decision as to whether or not an action is intentional or not. These findings are primarily consistent with the previous research done by Knob demonstrating that “the folk concept of intentional action plays an important role in blaming and we blame and praise people, depending on their intentional actions.
Because the actions that are blameworthy differ from the actions that are praiseworthy, the properties that matter for classifying blameworthy actions as intentional differ from the properties that matter for classifying praiseworthy actions as intentional” (Knob 2006) These findings however are inconsistent with the idea of overall efficacy of actions despite its morally “good” outcomes based on utilitarian need (Machinery 2008) – in the case of the lottery, and the killing of soldiers, it is indicated that one would place more blame on the intentional act of winning an entire war and killing numerous soldiers than the other case.
This theory may be informative and provide insight into the folk psychology of intentional action and further the discussion of morality with regard to the philosophical debate. There were several limitations that challenge this study. First, he lack of participants would have produced a lackluster depiction of actual perception on intentional action if not for a bigger sample size. Lastly, the questions in this research could have been more direct in resolving the notion of “Sacrifice of the many – for the greater good” – as such it might be indicative of not supporting a counter-argument.