Actual and Counterfactual Worlds
How do people attribute responsibility to individuals in a group? Several models in psychology predict a close relationship between counterfactuals and responsibility. The chapter first reviews these models and points out a major limitation: people sometimes hold individuals responsible, even though the group outcome was not counterfactually dependent on their contribution. The chapter proposes a modeling framework that conceptualizes responsibility attributions in terms of richer counterfactuals defined over structured causal models. Using this framework, it shows that an individual’s responsibility increases, the closer their contribution was to making a difference to the outcome. Furthermore, the chapter demonstrates that retrospective responsibility attributions are affected by a person’s prospective responsibility: individuals whose contributions are perceived to be more critical for the team’s success receive more responsibility for the outcome.
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