Duke University
Department of Philosophy
PhD, 2019
CV
Lake Forest, Illinois, United States of America
  •  647
    Resistance to Position Change, Motivated Reasoning, and Polarization
    with Matthew L. Stanley, Brenda Yang, and Felipe De Brigard
    Political Behavior. forthcoming.
    People seem more divided than ever before over social and political issues, entrenched in their existing beliefs and unwilling to change them. Empirical research on mechanisms driving this resistance to belief change has focused on a limited set of well-known, charged, contentious issues and has not accounted for deliberation over reasons and arguments in belief formation prior to experimental sessions. With a large, heterogeneous sample (N = 3,001), we attempt to overcome these existing problem…Read more
  •  602
    I’m not the person I used to be: The self and autobiographical memories of immoral actions
    with Matthew L. Stanley, Vijeth Iyengar, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, and Felipe De Brigard
    Journal of Experimental Psychology. General 146 (6): 884-895. 2017.
    People maintain a positive identity in at least two ways: They evaluate themselves more favorably than other people, and they judge themselves to be better now than they were in the past. Both strategies rely on autobiographical memories. The authors investigate the role of autobiographical memories of lying and emotional harm in maintaining a positive identity. For memories of lying to or emotionally harming others, participants judge their own actions as less morally wrong and less negative th…Read more
  •  432
    Cause by Omission and Norm: Not Watering Plants
    with Ángel Pinillos and Felipe De Brigard
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (2): 270-283. 2017.
    People generally accept that there is causation by omission—that the omission of some events cause some related events. But this acceptance elicits the selection problem, or the difficulty of explaining the selection of a particular omissive cause or class of causes from the causal conditions. Some theorists contend that dependence theories of causation cannot resolve this problem. In this paper, we argue that the appeal to norms adequately resolves the selection problem for dependence theories,…Read more
  •  339
    Remembering moral and immoral actions in constructing the self
    with Matthew L. Stanley and Felipe De Brigard
    Memory and Cognition. forthcoming.
    Having positive moral traits is central to one’s sense of self, and people generally are motivated to maintain a positive view of the self in the present. But it remains unclear how people foster a positive, morally good view of the self in the present. We suggest that recollecting and reflecting on moral and immoral actions from the personal past jointly help to construct a morally good view of the current self in complementary ways. More specifically, across four studies we investigated the ex…Read more
  •  200
    Recently, psychologists have explored moral concepts including obligation, blame, and ability. While little empirical work has studied the relationships among these concepts, philosophers have widely assumed such a relationship in the principle that “ought” implies “can,” which states that if someone ought to do something, then they must be able to do it. The cognitive underpinnings of these concepts are tested in the three experiments reported here. In Experiment 1, most participants judge that…Read more
  •  143
    Norms Affect Prospective Causal Judgments
    with Kevin O’Neill, Paul Bello, Sangeet Khemlani, and Felipe De Brigard
    Cognitive Science 45 (1). 2021.
    People more frequently select norm-violating factors, relative to norm- conforming ones, as the cause of some outcome. Until recently, this abnormal-selection effect has been studied using retrospective vignette-based paradigms. We use a novel set of video stimuli to investigate this effect for prospective causal judgments—i.e., judgments about the cause of some future outcome. Four experiments show that people more frequently select norm- violating factors, relative to norm-conforming ones, as …Read more
  •  132
    An Empirical Refutation of ‘Ought’ Implies ‘Can’
    with Vladimir Chituc, Felipe De Brigard, and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong
    Analysis 76 (3): 283-290. 2016.
    Most philosophers assume that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’, and most of them hold that this principle is true not only universally but also analytically or conceptually. Some skeptics deny this principle, although they often admit some related one. In this article, we show how new empirical evidence bolsters the skeptics’ arguments. We then defend the skeptical view against some objections to the empirical evidence and to its effect on the traditional principle. In light of the new evidence, we conclud…Read more
  •  109
    Norms and the meaning of omissive enabling conditions
    with Paul Bello, Sangeet Khemlani, and Felipe De Brigard
    Proceedings of the 41st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society 41. 2019.
    People often reason about omissions. One line of research shows that people can distinguish between the semantics of omissive causes and omissive enabling conditions: for instance, not flunking out of college enabled you (but didn’t cause you) to graduate. Another line of work shows that people rely on the normative status of omissive events in inferring their causal role: if the outcome came about because the omission violated some norm, reasoners are more likely to select that omission as a ca…Read more
  •  82
    While philosophers generally accept some version of the principle ‘ought’ implies ‘can’, recent work in experimental philosophy and cognitive science provides evidence against a presupposition or a conceptual entailment from ‘ought’ to ‘can’. Here, we review some of this evidence, its effect on particular formulations of the principle, and future directions for cognitive scientists and philosophers.
  •  79
    People’s causal judgments are susceptible to the action effect, whereby they judge actions to be more causal than inactions. We offer a new explanation for this effect, the counterfactual explanation: people judge actions to be more causal than inactions because they are more inclined to consider the counterfactual alternatives to actions than to consider counterfactual alternatives to inactions. Experiment 1a conceptually replicates the original action effect for causal judgments. Experiment 1b…Read more
  •  63
    Many philosophers claim that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’. In light of recent empirical evidence, however, some skeptics conclude that philosophers should stop assuming the principle unconditionally. Streumer, however, does not simply assume the principle’s truth; he provides arguments for it. In this article, we argue that his arguments fail to support the claim that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’.
  •  61
    Perceived similarity of imagined possible worlds affects judgments of counterfactual plausibility
    with Felipe De Brigard and Matthew L. Stanley
    Cognition 209 104574. 2021.
    People frequently entertain counterfactual thoughts, or mental simulations about alternative ways the world could have been. But the perceived plausibility of those counterfactual thoughts varies widely. The current article interfaces research in the philosophy and semantics of counterfactual statements with the psychology of mental simulations, and it explores the role of perceived similarity in judgments of counterfactual plausibility. We report results from seven studies (N = 6405) jointly su…Read more
  •  46
    Reasons probably won’t change your mind: The role of reasons in revising moral decisions
    with Matthew L. Stanley, Ashley M. Dougherty, Brenda W. Yang, and Felipe De Brigard
    Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 147 (7): 962-987. 2018.
    Although many philosophers argue that making and revising moral decisions ought to be a matter of deliberating over reasons, the extent to which the consideration of reasons informs people’s moral decisions and prompts them to change their decisions remains unclear. Here, after making an initial decision in 2-option moral dilemmas, participants examined reasons for only the option initially chosen(affirming reasons), reasons for only the option not initially chosen (opposing reasons), or reasons…Read more
  •  26
    Counterfactual thinking and recency effects in causal judgment
    with Aleksandra Kulesza, Karla Perez, and Augustana Houcek
    Cognition 212 104708. 2021.
    People tend to judge more recent events, relative to earlier ones, as the cause of some particular outcome. For instance, people are more inclined to judge that the last basket, rather than the first, caused the team to win the basketball game. This recency effect, however, reverses in cases of overdetermination: people judge that earlier events, rather than more recent ones, caused the outcome when the event is individually sufficient but not individually necessary for the outcome. In five expe…Read more
  •  24
    Counterfactual Thinking and Recency Effects in Causal Judgment
    with Aleksandra Kulesza, Karla Perez, and Augustana Houcek
    People tend to judge more recent events, relative to earlier ones, as the cause of some particular outcome. For instance, people are more inclined to judge that the last basket, rather than the first, caused the team to win the basketball game. This recency effect, however, reverses in cases of overdetermination: people judge that earlier events, rather than more recent ones, caused the outcome when the event is individually sufficient but not individually necessary for the outcome. In five expe…Read more
  •  13
    Making moral principles suit yourself
    Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 1. 2021.
    Normative ethical theories and religious traditions offer general moral principles for people to follow. These moral principles are typically meant to be fixed and rigid, offering reliable guides for moral judgment and decision-making. In two preregistered studies, we found consistent evidence that agreement with general moral principles shifted depending upon events recently accessed in memory. After recalling their own personal violations of moral principles, participants agreed less strongly …Read more