Differential Effects of Cognitive Ability On Mind Agency and Perceived Innocence

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The current study examined how different characters could be perceived as innocent and what factors could contribute to participants’ perception of innocence. Mind agency, which is the ability to exert cognitive control, could be a key factor for perceived innocence for different characters. Study 1 suggested that only an infant was perceived innocent when rated as having lower mind agency. Other characters such as a girl and animals were perceived innocent when they were described as having higher mind agency. Thus, the perception of innocence along with the relationship with mind agency depended on the target characters. The last two studies further showed that perceived innocence for an infant was negatively related with the capability of exerting mental control with the manipulations of both mind capability and thinking about innocence. Perceived innocence for human beings varies across human targets; cognitive ability to control behaviors matters for a girl and animals but not matter for infants. The findings of the study connote the two different views of humanness proposed by Haslam and colleagues (Haslam et al. British Journal of Social Psychology, 39, 113–127, 2008): the inherited nature of humanness and uniquely human characteristics developed at later ages.

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Current Psychology

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