Adam Waytz's research while affiliated with Northwestern University and other places

Publications (78)

Article
We examine how actors think others perceive their morally questionable behavior (moral meta-perception) across a diverse set of real-world moral violations. Utilizing a novel methodology, we solicit written instances of actors' morally questionable behavior (Ntotal = 135), measure motives and meta-perceptions, then provide these accounts to separat...
Article
Companies and governments are using algorithms to improve decision-making for hiring, medical treatments, and parole. The use of algorithms holds promise for overcoming human biases in decision-making, but they frequently make decisions that discriminate. Media coverage suggests that people are morally outraged by algorithmic discrimination, but he...
Article
Seven studies test and find evidence for a relationship between secrecy and power. People who received secret information from another person felt more powerful than people who did not, both in terms of secrets they recalled from life (Studies 1, 2, and 4) as well as secrets from strangers (Studies 3 and 5). The effect of receiving secret informati...
Preprint
We examine how actors think others perceive their immoral behavior (moral meta-perception) across a diverse set of real-world moral violations. Utilizing a novel methodology, we solicit written instances of actors’ immoral behavior (N_total=135), measure motives and meta-perceptions, then provide these accounts to separate samples of third-party ob...
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Three studies test whether people engage in mental state reasoning or theory of mind (ToM) differently across two fundamental social contexts: cooperation and competition. Study 1 examines how children with an emerging understanding of false beliefs deploy ToM across these contexts. We find that young preschool children are better able to plant fal...
Article
Mind perception-the attribution of mental states to humans and nonhuman entities-is an essential element of social cognition (distinct from related constructs such as perspective-taking and attribution). Despite its importance, research often captures this construct in hypothetical and atypical situations. We therefore used a novel text analysis to...
Article
Across 12 studies ( N = 31,581), we examined how concerns about the rise of automation may be associated with attitudes toward immigrants. Studies 1a to 1g used archival data ranging from 1986 to 2017 across both the United States and Europe to demonstrate a robust association between concerns about automation and more negative attitudes toward imm...
Article
The theory of mind network (ToMN) is a set of brain regions activated by a variety of social tasks. Recent work has proposed that these associations with ToMN activity may relate to a common underlying computation: processing prediction error in social contexts. The present work presents evidence consistent with this hypothesis, using a fine-graine...
Preprint
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The use of algorithms hold promise for overcoming human biases in decision making. Companies and governments are using algorithms to improve decision-making for hiring, medical treatments, and parole. Unfortunately, as with humans, some of these algorithms make persistently biased decisions, functionally discriminating people based on their race an...
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Do clashes between ideologies reflect policy differences or something more fundamental? The present research suggests they reflect core psychological differences such that liberals express compassion toward less structured and more encompassing entities (i.e., universalism), whereas conservatives express compassion toward more well-defined and less...
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Whistleblowers risk great personal cost to expose injustice. While their actions are sometimes deemed morally courageous, existing evidence that whistleblowers are primarily motivated by moral concerns is mixed. Moreover, little is known about the extent to which moral concerns predict whistleblowing relative to other organizational and situational...
Article
This research provides, to our knowledge, the first systematic empirical investigation of people's aversion to playing God . Seven studies validate this construct and show its association with negative moral judgements of science and technology. Motivated by three nationally representative archival datasets that demonstrate this relationship, studi...
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As robots become more autonomous, people will see them as more responsible for wrongdoing. Moral psychology suggests that judgments of robot responsibility will hinge on perceived situational awareness, intentionality, and free will—plus anthropomorphism and the robot’s capacity for harm. We also consider questions of robot rights and moral decisio...
Article
A field experiment examines how moral behavior, moral thoughts, and self-benefiting behavior affect daily well-being. Using experience sampling technology, we randomly grouped participants over 10 days to either behave morally, have moral thoughts, or do something positive for themselves. Participants received treatment-specific instructions in the...
Article
Human imagination is bounded. As situations become more distant in time, place, perspective, and likelihood, they also become more difficult to simulate. What underlies the ability to successfully engage in distal simulations? Here we examine the psychological and neural mechanisms underlying distal simulation by studying individuals known for tran...
Article
Anthropomorphism, the attribution of distinctively human mental characteristics to nonhuman animals and objects, illustrates the human propensity for extending social cognition beyond typical social targets. Yet, its processing components remain challenging to study because they are typically all engaged simultaneously. Across one pilot study and o...
Preprint
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A claim may be correct or incorrect, but it can also be interpreted at a second-order, in terms of the information conveyed. Facts typically provide objective information about the world, whereas preferences provide subjective information about beliefs. Second-order judgments about moral claims (i.e. metaethical judgments) occupy a special case: so...
Article
People perceive morality to be distinctively human, with immorality representing a lack of full humanness. In eight experiments, we examined the link between immorality and self-dehumanization, testing both (a) the causal role of immoral behavior on self-dehumanization and (b) the causal role of self-dehumanization on immoral behavior. Studies 1a t...
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How does online technology impact sociability? Emerging evidence—much of it inconclusive—suggests a nuanced relationship between online technology (the internet, social media, and virtual reality) and sociability (emotion recognition, empathy, perspective-taking, and emotional intelligence). While online technology can facilitate purely positive (e...
Article
Extending prior research on belief attributions, we investigated the extent to which 5- to 8-year-olds and adults distinguish their beliefs and other humans' beliefs from God's beliefs. In Study 1, children reported that all agents held the same beliefs, whereas adults reported that they were more likely than any other agent to think that good beha...
Preprint
A claim may be correct or incorrect, but it can also be interpreted at a second-order, in terms of the information conveyed. Facts typically provide objective information about the world, whereas preferences provide subjective information about beliefs. Second-order judgments about moral claims (i.e. metaethical judgments) occupy a special case: so...
Preprint
There is a debate regarding the function of theory of mind (ToM), the capacity to infer, attribute, and reason about mental states. On the one hand are evolutionary and psychological work suggesting that ToM is greater for competition than cooperation. On the other hand are findings and theories promoting greater ToM for cooperation than competitio...
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Metaethical judgments refer to judgments about the information expressed by moral claims. Moral objectivists generally believe that moral claims are akin to facts, whereas moral subjectivists generally believe that moral claims are more akin to preferences. Evidence from developmental and social psychology has generally favored an objectivist view;...
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In people’s imagination, dying seems dreadful; however, these perceptions may not reflect reality. In two studies, we compared the affective experience of people facing imminent death with that of people imagining imminent death. Study 1 revealed that blog posts of near-death patients with cancer and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis were more positive...
Article
How people choose to help each other can be just as important as how much people help. Help can come through relatively paternalistic or agentic aid. Paternalistic aid, such as banning certain foods to encourage weight loss or donating food to alleviate poverty, restricts recipients’ choices compared with agentic aid, such as providing calorie coun...
Preprint
Moral objectivists generally believe that moral claims are akin to facts, whereas moral subjectivists generally believe that moral claims are more akin to preferences. Evidence from developmental and social psychology has generally favored an objectivist view; however, this work has typically relied on few examples, and analyses have disallowed sta...
Article
The idea of the moral circle pictures the self in the center, surrounded by concentric circles encompassing increasingly distant possible targets of moral concern, including family, local community, nation, all humans, all mammals, all living things including plants, and all things including inanimate objects. The authors develop the idea of two op...
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How do people consider other minds during cooperation versus competition? Some accounts predict that theory of mind (ToM) is recruited more for cooperation versus competition or competition versus cooperation, whereas other accounts predict similar recruitment across these two contexts. The present fMRI study examined activity in brain regions for...
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[This corrects the article DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0048546.].
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Dehumanization is a central concept in the study of intergroup relations. Yet while theoretical and methodological advances in subtle, ‘everyday’ dehumanization have progressed rapidly, blatant dehumanization remains understudied. The present research attempts to re-focus theoretical and empirical attention on blatant dehumanization, examining when...
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For centuries, humans have contemplated the minds of gods. Research on religious cognition is spread across sub-disciplines, making it difficult to gain a complete understanding of how people reason about gods' minds. We integrate approaches from cognitive, developmental, and social psychology and neuroscience to illuminate the origins of religious...
Article
Mental simulation, the process of self-projection into alternate temporal, spatial, social, or hypothetical realities is a distinctively human capacity. Numerous lines of research also suggest that the tendency for mental simulation is associated with enhanced meaning. The present research tests this association specifically examining the relations...
Article
Reducing unethical behavior is an important goal for many organizations. Prior research demonstrates that social closeness – i.e., psychological or real social proximity to others – may reduce unethical behavior. Simply feeling close to others, using gestures to signal interpersonal closeness, belonging to a tight knit group, or being in a high den...
Article
Effective social interaction requires people to consider the minds of others. The present research suggests that different motivations systematically elicit attention to different components of mind. Four experiments manipulate either motivation for action prediction (effectance motivation) or motivation for affiliation and ask participants to eval...
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Five studies across cultures involving 661 American Democrats and Republicans, 995 Israelis, and 1,266 Palestinians provide previously unidentified evidence of a fundamental bias, what we term the "motive attribution asymmetry," driving seemingly intractable human conflict. These studies show that in political and ethnoreligious intergroup conflict...
Article
A dominant view is that moralized attitudes—attitudes rooted in moral values rather than personal taste—escalate social conflict. While moralized attitudes clearly contribute, another view is that societal conflict is perpetuated by a dynamic tension between those with moralized attitudes and those with amoralized attitudes—attitudes divested of mo...
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Dehumanization, the denial of fundamentally human capacities to others, has contributed to largescale intergroup conflict and violence, ranging from the Holocaust, to American slavery, to Rwandan warfare between the Hutus and Tutsis. The type of dehumanization that emerges in these contexts typically stems from the motives to represent others activ...
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Sophisticated technology is increasingly replacing human minds to perform complicated tasks in domains ranging from medicine to education to transportation. We investigated an important theoretical determinant of people's willingness to trust such technology to perform competently—the extent to which a nonhuman agent is anthropomorphized with a hum...
Article
Technological innovations have produced robots capable of jobs that, until recently, only humans could perform. The present research explores the psychology of "botsourcing"-the replacement of human jobs by robots-while examining how understanding botsourcing can inform the psychology of outsourcing-the replacement of jobs in one country by humans...
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The present research provides the first systematic empirical investigation into superhumanization, the attribution of supernatural, extrasensory, and magical mental and physical qualities to humans. Five studies test and support the hypothesis that White Americans superhumanize Black people relative to White people. Studies 1-2b demonstrate this ph...
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Moral psychology has begun to characterize the circumstances that lead people to commit moral violations. However, the decision to engage in corrupt behaviour may not always reflect a choice between right and wrong. Rather, the decision may represent a trade-off between competing moral concerns (for example, being fair and impartial to all versus l...
Article
Rituals are ubiquitous. Across cultures, people use rituals pervasively, but we know very little about how rituals influence cognition and behavior. This symposium provides insight into the types of rituals people use, the benefits rituals confer on those who perform them, the mechanisms underlying the effects of rituals on behavior, and the manage...
Article
Whistleblowing – reporting another person's unethical behavior to a third party – often constitutes a conflict between competing moral concerns. Whistleblowing promotes justice and fairness but can also appear disloyal. Five studies demonstrate that a fairness–loyalty tradeoff predicts people's willingness to blow the whistle. Study 1 demonstrates...
Article
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Human beings have a sophisticated ability to reason about the minds of others, often referred to as using one's theory of mind or mentalizing. Just like any other cognitive ability, people engage in reasoning about other minds when it seems useful for achieving particular goals, but this ability remains disengaged otherwise. We suggest that underst...
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The present work provides evidence that people assume a priori that Blacks feel less pain than do Whites. It also demonstrates that this bias is rooted in perceptions of status and the privilege (or hardship) status confers, not race per se. Archival data from the National Football League injury reports reveal that, relative to injured White player...
Data
Unadjusted means and standard deviations for self-ratings and ratings of others’ pain. (DOCX)
Data
Zero-order correlations between self-ratings and ratings of others’ pain. (DOCX)
Article
People experience joy and pain. We appreciate brilliant colors. We have awareness of our own mental states, and we attribute mental states to others—not only beliefs and desires, but also phenomenal experiences (such as joy and pain). We knowingly construct conceptions of ourselves and deploy these self-concepts to navigate the world around us. The...
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The present research tested whether incidental exposure to money affects people's endorsement of social systems that legitimize social inequality. We found that subtle reminders of the concept of money, relative to nonmoney concepts, led participants to endorse more strongly the existing social system in the United States in general (Experiment 1)...
Article
Human beings have an unusual proclivity for altruistic behavior, and recent commentators have suggested that these prosocial tendencies arise from our unique capacity to understand the minds of others (i.e., to mentalize). The current studies test this hypothesis by examining the relation between altruistic behavior and the reflexive engagement of...
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Mind perception entails ascribing mental capacities to other entities, whereas moral judgment entails labeling entities as good or bad or actions as right or wrong. We suggest that mind perception is the essence of moral judgment. In particular, we suggest that moral judgment is rooted in a cognitive template of two perceived minds-a moral dyad of...
Article
Dehumanization is endemic in medical practice. This article discusses the psychology of dehumanization resulting from inherent features of medical settings, the doctor-patient relationship, and the deployment of routine clinical practices. First, we identify six major causes of dehumanization in medical settings (deindividuating practices, impaired...
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Being socially connected has considerable benefits for oneself, but may have negative consequences for evaluations of others. In particular, being socially connected to close others satisfies the need for social connection, and creates disconnection from more distant others. We therefore predicted that feeling socially connected would increase the...
Article
People attribute minds to other individuals and make inferences about those individuals' mental states to explain and predict their behavior. Little is known, however, about whether people also attribute minds to groups and believe that collectives, companies, and corporations can think, have intentions, and make plans. Even less is known about the...
Article
People often attempt to understand other minds by using their own thoughts and experiences as a proxy for those of others, a process known broadly as simulation. Recent research in cognitive neuroscience has identified the neural bases of two forms of simulation: mirroring and self-projection. Mirroring involves a vicarious response in which a perc...
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People commonly anthropomorphize nonhuman agents, imbuing everything from computers to pets to gods with humanlike capacities and mental experiences. Although widely observed, the determinants of anthropomorphism are poorly understood and rarely investigated. We propose that people anthropomorphize, in part, to satisfy effectance motivation-the bas...
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Perceiving others' minds is a crucial component of social life. People do not, however, always ascribe minds to other people, and sometimes ascribe minds to non-people (e.g. God, gadgets). This article reviews when mind perception occurs, when it does not, and why mind perception is important. Causes of mind perception stem both from the perceiver...
Article
People can appear inconsistent in their intuitions about sequences of repeated events. Sometimes people believe such sequences will continue (the "hot hand"), and sometimes people believe they will reverse (the "gambler's fallacy"). These contradictory intuitions can be partly explained by considering the perceived intentionality of the agent gener...
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Anthropomorphism is a far-reaching phenomenon that incorporates ideas from social psychology, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, and the neurosciences. Although commonly considered to be a relatively universal phenomenon with only limited importance in modern industrialized societies—more cute than critical—our research suggests precis...
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People conceive of wrathful gods, fickle computers, and selfish genes, attributing human characteristics to a variety of supernatural, technological, and biological agents. This tendency to anthropomorphize nonhuman agents figures prominently in domains ranging from religion to marketing to computer science. Perceiving an agent to be humanlike has...
Chapter
Social neuroscience is the study of the associations between social and neural levels of organization and the biological mechanisms underlying these associations. Neuroscientists have tended to focus on single organisms, organs, cells, or intracellular processes. Social species create emergent organizations beyond the individual. These emergent str...
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We propose that the tendency to anthropomorphize nonhuman agents is determined primarily by three factors (Epley, Waytz, & Cacioppo, 2007), two of which we test here: sociality motivation and effectance motivation. This theory makes unique predictions about dispositional, situational, cultural, and developmental variability in anthropomorphism, and...
Article
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People are motivated to maintain social connection with others, and those who lack social connection with other humans may try to compensate by creating a sense of human connection with nonhuman agents. This may occur in at least two ways-by anthropomorphizing nonhuman agents such as nonhuman animals and gadgets to make them appear more humanlike a...
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Anthropomorphism describes the tendency to imbue the real or imagined behavior of nonhuman agents with humanlike characteristics, motivations, intentions, or emotions. Although surprisingly common, anthropomorphism is not invariant. This article describes a theory to explain when people are likely to anthropomorphize and when they are not, focused...

Citations

... Additionally, trustees may produce ethically questionable outcomes (i.e., discriminating against minority applicants) that can affect trustworthiness assessments (Bonezzi & Ostinelli, 2021). In cases where trust violations are based on violations of ethical considerations, people might have stronger negative reactions for human trustees as they may believe that automated systems do not actively discriminate against specific groups of people (Bigman et al., 2022;Jago & Laurin, 2022). However, previous research on trust in automation would suggest that errors by automated systems result in strong negative effects on trustworthiness which is why we propose: Hypothesis 1 4 : After a trust violation, trustworthiness, trust, and trust behavior in the automated system condition will decrease more compared to the human trustee condition. ...
... To see how these factors impact goal completion, children need to consider only one or two agents at a time. For example, children might recognize that an agent will have difficulty completing a goal because of difficulties posed by a physical obstacle (e.g., Liu et al., 2017;Warneken & Tomsello, 2007) or a rival (e.g., Gülgöz & Gelman, 2017;Thomsen et al., 2011), or because the agent was misled by someone else (e.g., Chandler et al., 1989;Tsoi et al., 2021). In contrast, thinking about supply and demand requires children to consider the physical environment in relation to the aggregate actions of many agents (Leiser & Shemesh, 2018a, 2018b. ...
... Minds play an important role in social and moral cognition. People possess rich linguistic faculties that help them make sense of the social world in terms of mental states, such as goals and desires (Epley et al., 2007;Heider & Simmel, 1944;Schweitzer & Waytz, 2020). They are also generally interested in minds, including those possessed by non-human animals (Amiot & Bastian, 2015;Wilson, 1984). ...
... Mind perception is also associated with morality, i.e., what is right or wrong (Gray et al., 2012;Wegner & Gray, 2016;Young & Waytz, 2013), which regulates our social behaviors and serves to sustain our cooperative social systems (Greene, 2013;Tomasello & Vaish, 2013). The two dimensions of mind perception relate to two aspects of morality; entities perceived to have agency are condemned for wrongdoing, and those perceived to have experience are given moral consideration (Gray et al., 2007). ...