Date of Original Version

2009

Type

Book Chapter

Abstract or Description

People are normally encouraged to engage in premeditation—to think about the potential consequences of their behavior before acting. Indeed, planning, considering, and studying can be important precursors to decision making, and often seem to be essential to effective action. This view of premeditation is shared by most humans, a kind of universal ideal, and it carries an additional interesting implication: Even the hint that premeditation occurred can serve as a potent cue indicating voluntary action, both to actors and observers. In legal and moral contexts, for example, actors are seen as especially culpable for the consequences of their actions if those consequences were premeditated, whether or not the premeditation influenced the decision. In this chapter, we review evidence indicating that the perception of premeditation itself can lead people to think that an action’s consequences are under personal control, and that this occurs even when the premeditation is irrelevant to the production of the consequences. We present research exploring how various forms of perceived premeditation—including foresight, effortful forethought, wishful thinking, and the consideration of multiple possible outcomes of action—may lead actors to prefer and feel responsible for action outcomes even when this premeditation has no causal relation to the outcomes.

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Published In

R. Hassan, K. Ochsner, & Y. Trope (Eds.), Self-control in brain, mind, and society. New York: Oxford University Press. .