ARTICLE: INTUITIONS OF BLAMEWORTHINESS AS A HEURISTIC THAT EVALUATES THE PROBABILITY OF THE OFFENDER COMMITTING FUTURE ANTISOCIAL ACTS Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 2011 Thurgood Marshall Law Review
Thurgood Marshall Law Review

ARTICLE: INTUITIONS OF BLAMEWORTHINESS AS A HEURISTIC THAT EVALUATES THE PROBABILITY OF THE OFFENDER COMMITTING FUTURE ANTISOCIAL ACTS

Spring, 2011

Thurgood Marshall Law Review

36 T. Marshall L. Rev. 129

Author

Benjamin Bumann 1 , 2 and David M. Eagleman2, 3

Excerpt



I. Introduction



In an economic model of crime, the costs and benefits that are associated with committing a crime can be partitioned into a series of factors, such as social costs, material gain from the act, fear of retribution, state punishment, and several others. An understanding of the values that an offender places on the underlying variables would tell a great deal about how likely an offender is to recidivate. However, because these variables are private, they can only be estimated by inference. We argue that people have evolved behavioral heuristics to roughly estimate the utility functions of norm-violators in our societies and that the output of the heuristic is our sense of blameworthiness. In other words, the degree of blameworthiness serves as an unconscious estimate of another actor's assumed utility function; those with a high likelihood to recidivate induce feelings of higher blameworthiness. In this way, blameworthiness has served a crude but effective evolutionary role in directing punitive action towards offenders in proportion to their recidivistic potential. In this article, we present evidence from the behavioral sciences and from analysis of the American legal system that support this model. Additionally, an alternative to our theory is put forth, but is shown to fail at explaining people's intuitions of blameworthiness.



II. Modeling the Utility Function for Committing a Crime



The expected utility an individual receives for committing a crime can be modeled and used to predict his likelihood of committing the crime. The utility function is built ...
 
 
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