Why Do People Tend to Infer “Ought” From “Is”? The Role of Biases in Explanation

Christina M. Tworek, Andrei Cimpian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

People tend to judge what is typical as also good and appropriate—as what ought to be. What accounts for the prevalence of these judgments, given that their validity is at best uncertain? We hypothesized that the tendency to reason from “is” to “ought” is due in part to a systematic bias in people’s (nonmoral) explanations, whereby regularities (e.g., giving roses on Valentine’s Day) are explained predominantly via inherent or intrinsic facts (e.g., roses are beautiful). In turn, these inherence-biased explanations lead to value-laden downstream conclusions (e.g., it is good to give roses). Consistent with this proposal, results from five studies (N = 629 children and adults) suggested that, from an early age, the bias toward inherence in explanations fosters inferences that imbue observed reality with value. Given that explanations fundamentally determine how people understand the world, the bias toward inherence in these judgments is likely to exert substantial influence over sociomoral understanding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1109-1122
Number of pages14
JournalPsychological Science
Volume27
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016

Keywords

  • cognitive development
  • explanation
  • inherence heuristic
  • open data
  • open materials
  • preregistered
  • sociomoral judgments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

Cite this

Why Do People Tend to Infer “Ought” From “Is”? The Role of Biases in Explanation. / Tworek, Christina M.; Cimpian, Andrei.

In: Psychological Science, Vol. 27, No. 8, 01.08.2016, p. 1109-1122.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{8ae6102c230742689474a1dbb3f0b446,
title = "Why Do People Tend to Infer “Ought” From “Is”? The Role of Biases in Explanation",
abstract = "People tend to judge what is typical as also good and appropriate—as what ought to be. What accounts for the prevalence of these judgments, given that their validity is at best uncertain? We hypothesized that the tendency to reason from “is” to “ought” is due in part to a systematic bias in people’s (nonmoral) explanations, whereby regularities (e.g., giving roses on Valentine’s Day) are explained predominantly via inherent or intrinsic facts (e.g., roses are beautiful). In turn, these inherence-biased explanations lead to value-laden downstream conclusions (e.g., it is good to give roses). Consistent with this proposal, results from five studies (N = 629 children and adults) suggested that, from an early age, the bias toward inherence in explanations fosters inferences that imbue observed reality with value. Given that explanations fundamentally determine how people understand the world, the bias toward inherence in these judgments is likely to exert substantial influence over sociomoral understanding.",
keywords = "cognitive development, explanation, inherence heuristic, open data, open materials, preregistered, sociomoral judgments",
author = "Tworek, {Christina M.} and Andrei Cimpian",
year = "2016",
month = "8",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1177/0956797616650875",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "27",
pages = "1109--1122",
journal = "Psychological Science",
issn = "0956-7976",
publisher = "SAGE Publications Inc.",
number = "8",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Why Do People Tend to Infer “Ought” From “Is”? The Role of Biases in Explanation

AU - Tworek, Christina M.

AU - Cimpian, Andrei

PY - 2016/8/1

Y1 - 2016/8/1

N2 - People tend to judge what is typical as also good and appropriate—as what ought to be. What accounts for the prevalence of these judgments, given that their validity is at best uncertain? We hypothesized that the tendency to reason from “is” to “ought” is due in part to a systematic bias in people’s (nonmoral) explanations, whereby regularities (e.g., giving roses on Valentine’s Day) are explained predominantly via inherent or intrinsic facts (e.g., roses are beautiful). In turn, these inherence-biased explanations lead to value-laden downstream conclusions (e.g., it is good to give roses). Consistent with this proposal, results from five studies (N = 629 children and adults) suggested that, from an early age, the bias toward inherence in explanations fosters inferences that imbue observed reality with value. Given that explanations fundamentally determine how people understand the world, the bias toward inherence in these judgments is likely to exert substantial influence over sociomoral understanding.

AB - People tend to judge what is typical as also good and appropriate—as what ought to be. What accounts for the prevalence of these judgments, given that their validity is at best uncertain? We hypothesized that the tendency to reason from “is” to “ought” is due in part to a systematic bias in people’s (nonmoral) explanations, whereby regularities (e.g., giving roses on Valentine’s Day) are explained predominantly via inherent or intrinsic facts (e.g., roses are beautiful). In turn, these inherence-biased explanations lead to value-laden downstream conclusions (e.g., it is good to give roses). Consistent with this proposal, results from five studies (N = 629 children and adults) suggested that, from an early age, the bias toward inherence in explanations fosters inferences that imbue observed reality with value. Given that explanations fundamentally determine how people understand the world, the bias toward inherence in these judgments is likely to exert substantial influence over sociomoral understanding.

KW - cognitive development

KW - explanation

KW - inherence heuristic

KW - open data

KW - open materials

KW - preregistered

KW - sociomoral judgments

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84981165349&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84981165349&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1177/0956797616650875

DO - 10.1177/0956797616650875

M3 - Article

C2 - 27485133

AN - SCOPUS:84981165349

VL - 27

SP - 1109

EP - 1122

JO - Psychological Science

JF - Psychological Science

SN - 0956-7976

IS - 8

ER -