A Knobe Effect for Belief Ascriptions
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Knobe (Analysis 63:190-193, 2003a, Philosophical Psychology 16:309-324, 2003b, Analysis 64:181-187, 2004b) found that people are more likely to attribute intentionality to agents whose actions resulted in negative side-effects that to agents whose actions resulted in positive ones. Subsequent investigation has extended this result to a variety of other folk psychological attributions. The present article reports experimental findings that demonstrate an analogous effect for belief ascriptions. Participants were found to be more likely to ascribe belief, higher degrees of belief, higher degrees of rational belief, and dispositional belief to agents in central Knobe effect cases who bring about negative side-effects than to agents who bring about positive ones. These findings present a significant challenge to widely held views about the Knobe effect, since many explanations of it assume that agents in contrasting pairs of Knobe effect cases do not differ with respect to their beliefs. Participants were also found to be more confident that knowledge should be attributed than they were that belief or dispositional belief should be attributed. This finding strengthens the challenge that Myers-Schulz and Schwitzgebel (2013) have launched against the traditional view that knowledge entails belief.
KeywordsParticipant Response Rational Belief Belief Ascription Undergraduate College Student Harm Condition
Thanks to Maria Capolupo, Sean Carey, Mattias Carosella, Phillip Collins, Danielle Curtin, Rachel Pazda, Jordan Pirdy, and Paul Poenicke who served as research assistants on this project. Thanks also to Mark Alfano, two anonymous reviewers at The Review of Philosophy and Psychology, and audience members at Eindhoven University of Technology and the 2012 meeting of the Society for Exact Philosophy for helpful comments on previous drafts of this paper.
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