•  1829
    The folk conception of knowledge
    with Christina Starmans
    Cognition 124 (3): 272-283. 2012.
    How do people decide which claims should be considered mere beliefs and which count as knowledge? Although little is known about how people attribute knowledge to others, philosophical debate about the nature of knowledge may provide a starting point. Traditionally, a belief that is both true and justified was thought to constitute knowledge. However, philosophers now agree that this account is inadequate, due largely to a class of counterexamples (termed ‘‘Gettier cases’’) in which a person’s ju…Read more
  •  812
    Children hold owners responsible when property causes harm
    with Celina K. Bowman-Smith and Brandon W. Goulding
    Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 147 (8): 1191-1199. 2018.
    Since ancient times, legal systems have held owners responsible for harm caused by their property. Across 4 experiments, we show that children aged 3–7 also hold owners responsible for such harm. Older children judge that owners should repair harm caused by property, and younger children may do this as well. Younger and older children judge that owners should apologize for harm, even when children do not believe the owners allowed the harm to occur. Children are also as likely to hold owners res…Read more
  •  474
    Core mechanisms in ‘theory of mind’
    with Alan M. Leslie and Tim P. German
    Trends in Cognitive Sciences 8 (12): 528-533. 2004.
    Our ability to understand the thoughts and feelings of other people does not initially develop as a theory but as a mechanism. The ‘ theory of mind ’ mechanism is part of the core architecture of the human brain, and is specialized for learning about mental states. Impaired development of this mechanism can have drastic effects on social learning, seen most strikingly in the autistic spectrum disorders. ToMM kick-starts belief–desire attribution but effective reasoning about belief contents depe…Read more
  •  434
    How Do Children Represent Pretend Play?
    In M. Taylor (ed.), Oxford handbook of the development of imagination, Oxford University Press. pp. 186-195. 2013.
    How do young children represent pretend play? One possibility is that recognizing and representing pretend play depends on children’s ability to infer the mental states of the person engaged in pretend play (mentalist account). The two dominant alternative possibilities are that children view as a distinctive form of non-representational behavior (behavioral account), and that children represent pretense by temporarily treating objects as though they have fictional or make-believe properties (fl…Read more
  •  424
    Knowledge before Belief
    with Jonathan Phillips, Wesley Buckwalter, Fiery Cushman, Alia Martin, John Turri, Laurie Santos, and Joshua Knobe
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 1-37. forthcoming.
    Research on the capacity to understand others’ minds has tended to focus on representations of beliefs, which are widely taken to be among the most central and basic theory of mind representations. Representations of knowledge, by contrast, have received comparatively little attention and have often been understood as depending on prior representations of belief. After all, how could one represent someone as knowing something if one doesn't even represent them as believing it? Drawing on a wide …Read more
  •  227
    Ownership Rights
    with Shaylene Nancekivell, J. Charles Millar, and Pauline Summers
    In Justin Sytsma Wesley Buckwalter (ed.), A companion to experimental philosophy, Wiley-blackwell. pp. 247-256. 2016.
    A chapter reviewing recent experimental work on people's conceptions of ownership rights.
  •  214
    Is probabilistic evidence a source of knowledge?
    with John Turri
    Cognitive Science 39 (5): 1062-1080. 2015.
    We report a series of experiments examining whether people ascribe knowledge for true beliefs based on probabilistic evidence. Participants were less likely to ascribe knowledge for beliefs based on probabilistic evidence than for beliefs based on perceptual evidence or testimony providing causal information. Denial of knowledge for beliefs based on probabilistic evidence did not arise because participants viewed such beliefs as unjustified, nor because such beliefs leave open the possibility of…Read more
  •  206
    We conducted five experiments that reveal some main contours of the folk epistemology of lotteries. The folk tend to think that you don't know that your lottery ticket lost, based on the long odds ("statistical cases"); by contrast, the folk tend to think that you do know that your lottery ticket lost, based on a news report ("testimonial cases"). We evaluate three previous explanations for why people deny knowledge in statistical cases: the justification account, the chance account, and the sta…Read more
  •  204
    Knowledge central: A central role for knowledge attributions in social evaluations
    with John Turri and Ashley Keefner
    Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 70 (3): 504-515. 2017.
    Five experiments demonstrate the central role of knowledge attributions in social evaluations. In Experiments 1–3, we manipulated whether an agent believes, is certain of, or knows a true proposition and asked people to rate whether the agent should perform a variety of actions. We found that knowledge, more so than belief or certainty, leads people to judge that the agent should act. In Experiments 4–5, we investigated whether attributions of knowledge or certainty can explain an important find…Read more
  •  155
    The development of territory-based inferences of ownership
    with Brandon W. Goulding
    Cognition 177 142-149. 2018.
    Legal systems often rule that people own objects in their territory. We propose that an early-developing ability to make territory-based inferences of ownership helps children address informational demands presented by ownership. Across 6 experiments (N = 504), we show that these inferences develop between ages 3 and 5 and stem from two aspects of the psychology of ownership. First, we find that a basic ability to infer that people own objects in their territory is already present at age 3 (Expe…Read more
  •  77
    Nagel, San Juan, and Mar report an experiment investigating lay attributions of knowledge, belief, and justification. They suggest that, in keeping with the expectations of philosophers, but contra recent empirical findings [Starmans, C. & Friedman, O. (2012). The folk conception of knowledge. Cognition, 124, 272–283], laypeople consistently deny knowledge in Gettier cases, regardless of whether the beliefs are based on ‘apparent’ or ‘authentic’ evidence. In this reply, we point out that Nagel e…Read more
  •  63
    The ability to engage in and recognize pretend play begins around 18 months. A major challenge for theories of pretense is explaining how children are able to engage in pretense, and how they are able to recognize pretense in others. According to one major account, the metarepresentational theory, young children possess both production and recognition abilities because they possess the mental state concept, PRETEND. According to a more recent rival account, the Behavioral theory, young children …Read more
  •  40
    Young children’s failures in reasoning about beliefs and desires, and especially about false beliefs, have been much studied. However, there are few accounts of successful belief-desire reasoning in older children or adults. An exception to this is a model in which belief attribution is treated as a process wherein an inhibitory system selects the most likely content for the belief to be attributed from amongst several competing contents [Leslie, A. M., & Polizzi, P. (1998). Developmental Scienc…Read more
  •  39
    Determining who owns what: Do children infer ownership from first possession?
    with Karen R. Neary
    Cognition 107 (3): 829-849. 2008.
    A basic problem of daily life is determining who owns what. One way that people may solve this problem is by relying on a ‘first possession’ heuristic, according to which the first person who possesses an object is its owner, even if others subsequently possess the object. We investigated preschoolers’ use of this heuristic in five experiments. In Experiments 1 and 2, 3- and 4-year-olds inferred that an object was owned by the character who possessed it first, even though another character subse…Read more
  •  34
    Non-interpretative metacognition for true beliefs
    with Adam R. Petrashek
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 32 (2): 146-147. 2009.
    Mindreading often requires access to beliefs, so the mindreading system should be able to self-attribute beliefs, even without self-interpretation. This proposal is consistent with Carruthers' claim that mindreading and metacognition depend on the same cognitive system and the same information as one another; and it may be more consistent with this claim than is Carruthers' account of metacognition
  •  31
    Parallels in Preschoolers' and Adults' Judgments About Ownership Rights and Bodily Rights
    with Julia W. Van de Vondervoort
    Cognitive Science 39 (1): 184-198. 2015.
    Understanding ownership rights is necessary for socially appropriate behavior. We provide evidence that preschoolers' and adults' judgments of ownership rights are related to their judgments of bodily rights. Four-year-olds and adults evaluated the acceptability of harmless actions targeting owned property and body parts. At both ages, evaluations did not vary for owned property or body parts. Instead, evaluations were influenced by two other manipulations—whether the target belonged to the agen…Read more
  •  26
    For the greater goods? Ownership rights and utilitarian moral judgment
    with J. Charles Millar and John Turri
    Cognition 133 (1): 79-84. 2014.
    People often judge it unacceptable to directly harm a person, even when this is necessary to produce an overall positive outcome, such as saving five other lives. We demonstrate that similar judgments arise when people consider damage to owned objects. In two experiments, participants considered dilemmas where saving five inanimate objects required destroying one. Participants judged this unacceptable when it required violating another’s ownership rights, but not otherwise. They also judged that…Read more
  •  26
    Academics across widely ranging disciplines all pursue knowledge, but they do so using vastly different methods. Do these academics therefore also have different ideas about when someone possesses knowledge? Recent experimental findings suggest that intuitions about when individuals have knowledge may vary across groups; in particular, the concept of knowledge espoused by the discipline of philosophy may not align with the concept held by laypeople. Across two studies, we investigate the concept…Read more
  •  22
    Although people own myriad objects, land, and even ideas, it is currently illegal to own other humans. This reluctance to view people as property raises interesting questions about our conceptions of people and about our conceptions of ownership. We suggest that one factor contributing to this reluctance is that humans are normally considered to be autonomous, and autonomy is incompatible with being owned by someone else. To investigate whether autonomy impacts judgments of ownership, participan…Read more
  •  21
    “Because it's hers”: When preschoolers use ownership in their explanations
    with Shaylene E. Nancekivell
    Cognitive Science 41 (3): 827-843. 2017.
    Young children show competence in reasoning about how ownership affects object use. In the present experiments, we investigate how influential ownership is for young children by examining their explanations. In three experiments, we asked 3- to 5-year-olds to explain why it was acceptable or unacceptable for a person to use an object. In Experiments 1 and 2, older preschoolers referenced ownership more than alternative considerations when explaining why it was acceptable or unacceptable for a pe…Read more
  •  13
    Acquiring ownership and the attribution of responsibility
    with Max Palamar and Doan T. Le
    Cognition 124 (2): 201-208. 2012.
    How is ownership established over non-owned things? We suggest that people may view ownership as a kind of credit given to agents responsible for making possession of a non-owned object possible. On this view, judgments about the establishment of ownership depend on attributions of responsibility. We report three experiments showing that people’s judgments about the establishment of ownership are influenced by an agent’s intent and control in bringing about an outcome, factors that also affect a…Read more
  •  10
    Sunk Cost Bias and Withdrawal Aversion
    with Michał Białek, Jonathan A. Fugelsang, Ethan A. Meyers, and Martin H. Turpin
    American Journal of Bioethics 19 (3): 57-59. 2019.
  •  10
    Identical but not interchangeable: Preschoolers view owned objects as non-fungible
    with Stephanie McEwan and Madison L. Pesowski
    Cognition 146 16-21. 2016.
    Owned objects are typically viewed as non-fungible-they cannot be freely interchanged. We report three experiments (total N=312) demonstrating this intuition in preschool-aged children. In Experiment 1, children considered an agent who takes one of two identical objects and leaves the other for a peer. Children viewed this as acceptable when the agent took his own item, but not when he took his peer's item. In Experiment 2, children considered scenarios where one agent took property from another…Read more
  •  10
    Ownership Matters: People Possess a Naïve Theory of Ownership
    with Shaylene E. Nancekivell and Susan A. Gelman
    Trends in Cognitive Sciences 23 (2): 102-113. 2019.
  •  9
    Unsolicited but acceptable: Non-owners can access property if the owner benefits
    with Emily Elizabeth Stonehouse
    Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 150 (1): 135-144. 2021.
    People are normally restricted from accessing property without permission from the owner. The principle that nonowners are excluded from property is central to theories of ownership, and previous findings suggest it could be a core feature of the psychology of ownership. However, we report six experiments on children (N = 480) and adults (N = 211) showing that this principle may not apply for actions that benefit the owner—actions like repairing broken property. In Experiment 1, 3–5-year-olds ju…Read more
  •  7
    Young children’s understanding of the limits and benefits of group ownership
    with Michelle Huh
    Developmental Psychology 53 (4): 686-697. 2017.
    Group ownership is ubiquitous—property is owned by countries, corporations, families, and clubs. However, people cannot understand group ownership by simply relying on their conceptions of ownership by individuals, as group ownership is subject to complexities that do not arise when property is individually owned. We report 6 experiments investigating whether children ages 3 to 6 understand group ownership. In Experiments 1 and 2 children were asked who different objects belong to, and they appr…Read more
  •  7
    Children value objects with distinctive histories
    with Madison L. Pesowski
    Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 148 (12): 2120-2128. 2019.
    From ancient objects in museums to souvenirs obtained on vacation, we often value objects for their distinctive histories. The present experiments investigate the developmental origins of people’s feelings that objects with distinctive histories are special. In each of four experiments, 4- to 7-year-olds (total N = 400) saw pairs of identical-looking objects in which one object was new and the other had a history that was either distinctive or mundane. In the first experiment, the histories did …Read more
  •  7
    Future-oriented objects
    with Brandon W. Goulding
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 42. 2019.
    Hoerl & McCormack suggest that saving tools does not require temporal reasoning. However, we identify a class of objects that are only possessed in anticipation of future needs. We propose that investigating these future-oriented objects may help identify temporal reasoning in populations where this ability is uncertain.
  •  6
    Spoiled for choice: Identifying the building blocks of folk-economic beliefs
    with Shaylene Nancekivell
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 41. 2018.
    Boyer & Petersen suggest that folk-economic beliefs result from evolved domain-specific cognitive systems concerned with social exchange. However, a major challenge for their account is that each folk-economic belief can be explained by different combinations of evolved cognitive systems. We illustrate this by offering alternative explanations for several economic beliefs they discuss.