Variations in judgments of intentional action and moral evaluation across eight cultures

Erin Robbins*, Jason Shepard, Philippe Rochat

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)


Individuals tend to judge bad side effects as more intentional than good side effects (the Knobe or side-effect effect). Here, we assessed how widespread these findings are by testing eleven adult cohorts of eight highly contrasted cultures on their attributions of intentional action as well as ratings of blame and praise. We found limited generalizability of the original side-effect effect, and even a reversal of the effect in two rural, traditional cultures (Samoa and Vanuatu) where participants were more likely to judge the good side effect as intentional. Three follow-up experiments indicate that this reversal of the side-effect effect is not due to semantics and may be linked to the perception of the status of the protagonist. These results highlight the importance of factoring cultural context in our understanding of moral cognition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-30
Number of pages9
Early online date29 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


  • Moral cognition
  • Moral evaluation
  • Intentional action
  • Side-effect effect
  • Cross-cultural psychology


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