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People as intuitive prosecutors

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People as intuitive prosecutors: The impact of social-control goals on attributions of responsibilityIntroductionSituational and dispositional triggers of the prosecutorial mindsetCognitive self-correctionOverviewExperiment 1MethodParticipantsProcedureIdeologyManipulating mindsetsCrime scenariosDependent measuresPunishmentLocus of causationAngerRepeated-measures: Would-you-change-your-mind-ifhellip?Post-experimental questionsResultsDiscussionExperiment 2MethodParticipantsProcedureDependent measuresResultsDiscussionExperiment 3MethodParticipantsProcedureStatus and severity manipulationsDependent variablesResultsDiscussionGeneral discussionReferencesUNCORRECTED PROOFJournal of Experimental Social Psychology xxx (2006) xxx–xxxwww.elsevier.com/locate/jesp0022-1031/$ - see front matter © 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2006.02.009YJESP 1855 No. of Pages 15; Model 5+ARTICLE IN PRESS14 March 2006 Disk Used Sherine (CE) / Prabakaran (TE)People as intuitive prosecutors: The impact of social-control goals on attributions of responsibility夽Philip E. Tetlocka,¤, Penny S. Visserb, Ramadhar Singhc, Mark Polifronid, Amanda Scottd, Beth Elsond, Philip Mazzoccod, Phillip Rescoberaa Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-1900, USAb University of Chicagoc National University of Singapored The Ohio State UniversityReceived 4 May 2005; revised 3 February 2006AbstractThree experiments explored determinants of punitive character attributions to norm violators. Experiment 1 showed that ideologicalconservatism and manipulated threat to society increased anger and attributional punitiveness when there was ambiguity about culpabil-ity. Experiment 2 showed that informing observers that norm violations were widespread and rarely punished increased attributionalpunitiveness by activating anger-charged retributive goals. Experiment 3 showed that liberals and conservatives alike felt justiWed inassigning greater blame to high-status perpetrators who commit acts of negligence with more severe consequences but that only conserva-tives felt justiWed in doing so for low-status perpetrators. Overall, the results reinforce the hypothesis that societal threat activates a pros-ecutorial mindset identiWable by a correlated cluster of attributions, emotions, punishment goals and punitiveness.© 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.Keywords: Attributions; Responsibility; Intuitive prosecutor; Social control; Ideology; Self-correction; Severity eVect; Extenuation; ExacerbationIntroductionWhen confronted by norm violations, people have manycoping options. Attribution theories expect people to con-sider a wide array of causal accounts, from the internal-controllable (e.g., evil intent) to the external-uncontrollable(e.g., exploitative system), that can trigger a correspondingarray of reactions, from punitiveness to forgiveness (Skitka& Mullen, 2002; Weiner, 1995). Culpable control theoryexpects people to favor explanations for norm violationsthat justify punishing perpetrators, ideally those withtainted reputations who Wt the template for good suspects(Alicke, 2000). Just-world and system-justiWcation theoriesexpect people to neutralize threats to core beliefs by dero-gating victims (Lerner & Lerner, 1978) and aYrming thelegitimacy of the existing status hierarchy (Jost, Banaji, &Nosek, 2004).Each framework captures key empirical regularities. Thecurrent article advances a new framework that draws onthis past work but highlights neglected determinants ofattributions of responsibility. The theoretical focus is on thefair-but-biased-yet-correctible (FBC) model grounded inthe intuitive-prosecutor branch of functionalism (Tetlock,2002). The FBC model builds on three uncontroversial setsof assumptions: (1) the fairness postulate—most people seethemselves as fair-minded, anchor this self-image in their夽Authors thank James Myers, Rachel Szteiter, Sara Hohenbrink, Jean-nette Porubin, Meaghan Quinn, Brooke Curtiss, David Madan, MeganBerkowitz, Yuen Foong Khong, Kris Preacher, Jason Mills, Sarah Lowe,Galo Falchettore, and Shi-jie Chang for assistance in data collection andanalysis. We also appreciate the support of the Burtt Chair in psychologyat The Ohio State University, the Mitchell Chair at the Haas School ofBusiness at the University of California, Berkeley, and Grant # R-107-000-030-112 from the National University of Singapore to Ramadhar Singh.*Corresponding author.E-mail address: [email protected] (P.E. Tetlock).1234567891011121314151617181920212223242526272829303132333435363738394041424344452 P.E. Tetlock et al. / Journal of Experimental Social Psychology xxx (2006) xxx–xxxUNCORRECTED PROOFYJESP 1855 No. of Pages 15; Model 5+ARTICLE IN PRESS14 March 2006 Disk Used Sherine (CE) / Prabakaran (TE)adherence to shared norms of fair play, and are roused toretributive wrath when others display contempt for thesenorms (Lerner & Lerner, 1978; Miller & Vidmar, 1980); (2)the bias postulate—as creatures of bounded rationalitywith imperfect cognitive self-control, people often fall preyto judgmental biases that cause them either to over-weightirrelevant criteria or under-weight relevant criteria (Gilo-vich, GriYn, & Kahneman, 2002); (3) the self-correctionpostulate—when people catch themselves straying fromtheir own private standards of good judgment, they try tocorrect themselves and self-correction is easiest in repeated-measures settings that facilitate monitoring the cues theyare using (Petty & Wegener, 1998).Fig. 1 lays out the logical structure of the model. Here wedivide key FBC predictions into two categories: those bear-ing on situational and dispositional triggers of the prosecu-torial mindset and those bearing on factors that inXuenceability and motivation to engage in cognitive self-correc-tion.Situational and dispositional triggers of the prosecutorial mindsetTheorists have long puzzled over how human beingsmanage to sustain intricate patterns of interdependence,and do so under conditions that game theorists see as pro-foundly unfavorable: strangers interacting in large groupsin which monitoring by authorities is spotty and there isoften little expectation of future interaction (Axelrod &Hamilton, 1981). Recently, evolutionary psychologists andbehavioral economists have tried to solve this puzzle bypositing a moralistic streak in human nature that predis-poses people to value, as an end in itself, the punishment ofnorm violators.


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