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2019 International Association for Conflict Management Conference

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Seeing Harm, Thinking “Humans”: Perceptions of Harm Prompt Human-Driven Explanations

Keywords: Meaning making, causal attributions, harm

Abstract: We examine the causal attributions that people make for phenomena based on the resulting consequences and find that the more harmful the consequences are perceived to be, the more likely people are to believe that human-driven causes contributed to the phenomena in the first place. This seems to specific to human-driven explanations, rather than a search for explanations in general. Furthermore, we have tentative evidence that this process seems at least somewhat restricted to perceptions of harm, not of moral outcomes more generally as we do not find the same effects for perceived helpfulness. We propose possible mechanisms and outline a next study to test one of these mechanisms. Finally, we discuss possible downstream consequences of attributing harm to human involvement.

Naomi Fa-Kaji, Stanford University

Brian Lowery, Stanford University


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