Originally published July 29, 2013
How harmful we perceive an act to be depends on whether we see the act as intentional, reveals new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
The new research shows that people significantly overestimate the monetary cost of intentional harm, even when they are given a financial incentive to be accurate.
"The law already recognizes intentional harm as more wrong than unintentional harm," explain researchers Daniel Ames and Susan Fiske of Princeton University. "But it assumes that people can assess compensatory damages -- what it would cost to make a person 'whole' again -- independently of punitive damages."
According to Ames and Fiske, the new research suggests that this separation may not be psychologically plausible:
"These studies suggest that people might not only penalize intentional harm more, but actually perceive it as intrinsically more damaging."
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