Causality and Blame Judgments of Negative Side Effects of Actions May Differ for Different Institutional Domains
Cognitive factors are known to influence lay assessments of causality and blame for negative side effects of intentional actions but specific social determinants of such assessments remain relatively unexplored. In a full-factorial, intraindividual experiment using two blocks of analogous vignettes constructed for two particular institutional action domains (“medical” and “corporate dress code”), we tested the propositions that causality and blame judgments differ between (a) domains and depend on (b) the type of action originator; (c) the type of damage; and (d) the “remoteness” of damage from the originator. Our data demonstrate a significant difference between two institutional action domains: actors in “medical”-related vignettes are generally estimated to be more causally effective and blameworthy than actors in “dress code”–related vignettes. In addition to the pronounced main effects of institutional domain as a factor influencing cause and blame judgments, we revealed few significant interaction effects of the latter with other experimental factors used for vignettes construction.