, Volume 193, Issue 8, pp 2633–2657 | Cite as

Do bad people know more? Interactions between attributions of knowledge and blame

  • James R. Beebe


A central topic in experimental epistemology has been the ways that non-epistemic evaluations of an agent’s actions can affect whether the agent is taken to have certain kinds of knowledge. Several scholars (e.g., Beebe and Buckwalter Mind Lang 25:474–98; 2010; Beebe and Jensen Philosophical Psychology 25:689–715, 2012; Schaffer and Knobe Noûs 46:675–708, 2012; Beebe and Shea Episteme 10:219–40, 2013; Buckwalter Philosophical Psychology 27:368–83, 2014; Turri Ergo 1:101–127, 2014) have found that the positive or negative valence of an action can influence attributions of knowledge to the agent. These evaluative effects on knowledge attributions are commonly seen as performance errors, failing to reflect individuals’ genuine conceptual competence with knows. In the present article, I report the results of a series of studies designed to test the leading version of this view, which appeals to the allegedly distorting influence of individuals’ motivation to blame. I argue that the data pose significant challenges to such a view.


Experimental epistemology Folk epistemology Knowledge Blame Knobe effect Epistemic side-effect effect 


  1. Adams, F., & Steadman, A. (2004a). Intentional action in ordinary language: Core concept or pragmatic understanding? Analysis, 64, 173–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adams, F., & Steadman, A. (2004b). Intentional action and moral considerations: Still pragmatic. Analysis, 64, 268–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alfano, M., Beebe, J. R., & Robinson, B. (2012). The centrality of belief and reflection in Knobe effect cases: A unified account of the data. The Monist, 95, 264–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Alicke, M. D. (2000). Culpable control and the psychology of blame. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 556–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Alicke, M. D. (2008). Blaming badly. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 8, 179–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Alicke, M. D., & Davis, T. L. (1989). The role of a posteriori victim information in judgments of blame and sanction. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 25, 362–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Alicke, M. D., Davis, T. L., & Pezzo, M. V. (1994). A posteriori adjustment of a priori decision criteria. Social Cognition, 12, 281–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Alicke, M., & Rose, D. (2010). Culpable control or moral concepts? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33, 330–1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Baron, J., & Hershey, J. C. (1988). Outcome bias in decision evaluation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 569–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Beebe, J. R. (2012). Experimental epistemology. In A. Cullison (Ed.), Companion to Epistemology (pp. 248–269). London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  11. Beebe, J. R. (2013). A Knobe effect for belief ascriptions. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 4, 235–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Beebe, J. R., & Buckwalter, W. (2010). The epistemic side-effect effect. Mind & Language, 25, 474–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Beebe, J. R., & Jensen, M. (2012). Surprising connections between knowledge and action: The robustness of the epistemic side-effect effect. Philosophical Psychology, 25, 689–715.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Beebe, J. R., & Shea, J. (2013). Gettierized Knobe effects. Episteme, 10, 219–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Buckwalter, W. (2010). Knowledge isn’t closed on Saturday: A study in ordinary language. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 1, 395–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Buckwalter, W. (2014). Gettier made ESEE. Philosophical Psychology, 27, 368–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Cullen, S. (2010). Survey-driven romanticism. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 1(2), 275–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dalbauer, N., & Hergovich, A. (2013). Is what is worse more likely? The probabilistic explanation of the epistemic side-effect effect. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 4, 639–657.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. DeRose, K. (1992). Contextualism and knowledge attributions. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 52(4), 913–929.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. DeRose, K. (1995). Solving the skeptical problem. Philosophical Review, 104(1), 1–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. DeRose, K. (2011). The case for contextualism: Knowledge, skepticism, and context (Vol. 1). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Evans, J., & Frankish, K. (2009). In two minds: Dual processes and beyond. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fantl, J., & McGrath, M. (2002). Evidence, pragmatics, and justification. Philosophical Review, 111, 67–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fantl, J., & McGrath, M. (2007). On pragmatic encroachment in epistemology. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 75, 558–589.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Fantl, J., & McGrath, M. (2009). Knowledge in an uncertain world. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Feltz, A., & Zarpentine, C. (2010). Do You know more when it matters less? Philosophical Psychology, 23, 683–706.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Fischhoff, B. (1975). Hindsight \(\ne \) foresight: the effect of outcome knowledge on judgement under uncertainty. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 1, 288–99.Google Scholar
  28. Fischhoff, B., & Beyth, R. (1975). I knew it would happen: Remembered probabilities of once-future things. Organizational Behaviour and Human Performance, 13, 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Harman, G. (1973). Thought. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. London: macmillan.Google Scholar
  31. Knobe, J. (2003a). Intentional action and side effects in ordinary language. Analysis, 63, 190–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Knobe, J. (2003b). Intentional action in folk psychology: An experimental investigation. Philosophical Psychology, 16, 309–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Knobe, J. (2004). Intention, intentional action and moral considerations. Analysis, 64, 181–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Knobe, J. (2006). The concept of intentional action: A case study in the uses of folk psychology. Philosophical Studies, 130, 203–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Knobe, J. (2007). Reason explanation in folk psychology. Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 31, 90–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Knobe, J. (2010). Person as scientist, person as moralist. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33, 315–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Knobe, J., & Mendlow, G. (2004). The good, the bad, and the blameworthy: Understanding the role of evaluative considerations in folk psychology. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, 24, 252–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Malle, B. F., & Nelson, S. E. (2003). Judging mens rea: The tension between folk concepts and legal concepts of intentionality. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 21, 563–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. May, J., Sinnott-Armstrong, W., Hull, J. G., & Zimmerman, A. (2010). Practical interests, relevant alternatives, and knowledge attributions: An empirical study. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 1, 265–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mele, A. (2006). The folk concept of intentional action: A commentary. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 6, 277–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mele, A., & Cushman, F. (2007). Intentional action, folk judgments, and stories: Sorting things out. Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 31, 184–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Myers-Schulz, B., & Schwitzgebel, E. (2013). Knowing that P without believing that P. Noûs, 47, 371–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Nadelhoffer, T. (2004a). On praise, side effects, and folk ascriptions of intentionality. The Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, 24, 196–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Nadelhoffer, T. (2004b). Blame, badness, and intentional action: A reply to Knobe and Mendlow. The Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, 24, 259–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Nadelhoffer, T. (2006). Bad acts, blameworthy agents, and intentional action: Some problems for juror impartiality. Philosophical Explorations, 9, 203–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Nagel, J. (2012). Intuitions about Gettier cases: A cross-cultural approach. Presented at the Eastern Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association. Atlanta, GA, December 30, 2012.Google Scholar
  47. Nagel, J., San Juan, V., & Mar, R. A. (2013). Lay denial of knowledge for justified true beliefs. Cognition, 129, 652–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Pettit, D., & Knobe, J. (2009). The pervasive impact of moral judgment. Mind & Language, 24, 586–604.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Phelan, M. (2013). Evidence that stakes don’t matter to evidence. Philosophical Psychology, 4, 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Phelan, M., & Sarkissian, H. (2008). The folk strike back: Or, why you didn’t do it intentionally, though it was bad and you knew it. Philosophical Studies, 138, 291–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Pinillos, N. Á. (2012). Knowledge, experiments and practical interests. In J. Brown & M. Gerken (Eds.), Knowledge Ascriptions (pp. 192–219). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Pinillos, N. Á., & Simpson, S. (2014). Experiment evidence supporting anti-intellectualism about knowledge. In J. R. Beebe (Ed.), Advances in experimental epistemology (pp. 9–43). London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  53. Sackris, D., & Beebe, J. R. (2014). Is justification necessary for knowledge? In J. R. Beebe (Ed.), Advances in experimental epistemology (pp. 175–192). London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  54. Schaffer, J., & Knobe, J. (2012). Contrastive knowledge surveyed. Noûs, 46, 675–708.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Skyrms, B. (1967). The explication of ‘X knows that P’. Journal of Philosophy, 64, 373–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sripada, C. S., & Stanley, J. (2012). Empirical tests of interest-relative invariantism. Episteme, 9, 3–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Stanley, J. (2005). Knowledge and Practical Interests. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Starmans, C., & Friedman, O. (2012). The folk conception of knowledge. Cognition, 124, 272–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Turri, J. (2014). The problem of ESEE knowledge. Ergo, 1, 101–127.Google Scholar
  60. Turri, J., & Buckwalter, W. forthcoming. Descartes’s schism, Locke’s reunion: Completing the pragmatic turn in epistemology.Google Scholar
  61. Uttich, K., & Lombrozo, T. (2010). Norms inform mental state ascriptions: A rational explanation for the side-effect effect. Cognition, 116, 87–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Weinberg, J. M., Nichols, S., & Stich, S. (2001). Normativity and epistemic intuitions. Philosophical Topics, 29, 429–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Young, L., Cushman, F., Adolphs, R., Tranel, D., & Hauser, M. (2006). Does emotion mediate the effect of an action’s moral status on its intentional status? Neuropsychological evidence. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 6, 265–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity at BuffaloBuffaloUSA

Personalised recommendations