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01/31/2017

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Josh May

Mario and Josh,

Thanks for conducting this wonderful replication! It's great to see direct replication efforts in experimental philosophy. I was excited to see this run regardless of the results, but of course it's welcome news that the original finding replicated, especially given that the sample was slightly different (online Mturkers vs in-person undergrads).

I'm also delighted to see you found the intention-valence effect, which we surprisingly didn't observe. I suspect our study was simply underpowered---as, alas, too many are.

In fact, despite a successful replication, I think your study exemplifies some important, even if now familiar, methodological virtues that our study lacked:

- Your achieved more power and as a result observed an additional effect.

- You conducted a power analysis to guide the choice of how many participants to include.

- You calculated and reported effect sizes.

Science moves forward!

Josh May

Some quick thoughts on weakness of will and the TRUE SELF:

Richard and I originally fit this valence effect into a story specific to weakness of will. However, Knobe and his collaborators have integrated it beautifully into their ongoing research on the true self (see e.g. Newman et al 2015: https://philpapers.org/archive/NEWBAT-2.pdf).

Roughly, the idea is that we tend to assume other people deep down are truly good, and this assumption colors the ways in which we see people's actions deviating from the good true self. If an agent goes against their best judgment but in so doing does something we regard as bad, then we're more inclined to attribute weakness, since this is inconsistent with the assumed values of the true self.

Indeed, the true self model could explain some other recent data gathered by Doucet and Turri (2014: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11229-014-0508-0). Roughly, they report finding that "non-psychological" factors affect attributions of weakness of will---particularly, whether the action's effects are good/bad (even for non-moral issues) and whether the agent lacks certain commitments in the first place. Perhaps we should treat these as psychological factors if we link them with tacit assumptions about the agent's true self. For example, when only the valence of an action's outcome is manipulated, people assume the agent's true self is good, which then explains the finding that people perceive greater weakness when the action's outcome is bad (D&T's Experiment 5). That is, people assume the agent didn't deep down want that outcome to occur.

(BTW, this last experiment by D&T might also be treated as a conceptual replication of our valence finding, although they didn't use the exact same materials and they focus on non-moral outcomes.)

Because of how fruitful this true self framework has been in a variety of areas, I'm coming around to the idea that it explains the moral valence effect on attributions of weakness of will. One might offer a separate explanation of the effect on weakness of will (e.g. say Beebe has done: https://philpapers.org/rec/BEEWOW), that doesn't really appeal to the true self. But, like the side-effect effect, the case is mounting that there is a more general phenomenon here.

Ultimately, though, I think various true self and non-true self theories are compatible with the cluster concept idea that Holton and I originally presented. That's more about the structure of the concept than about why it has that structure. But I really value these deeper explanations that try to illuminate the why-question.

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3QD Prize 2012: Wesley Buckwalter