Ames, D. L., & Fiske, S. T. (in press). Intentional harms are worse, even when they’re not. Psychological Science.
Abstract: People and societies seek to combat harmful events. However, because resources are limited, every wrong righted leaves another wrong left unchecked. Responses must therefore be calibrated to the magnitude of the harm. One underappreciated factor currently affecting this calibration may be people’s over-sensitivity to intent. Across five studies, people see intended harms as worse than unintended harms, even when the two harms are identical. This harm magnification effect occurs for both subjective and monetary estimates of harm, and it remains when accuracy is incentivized. The effect is fully mediated by blame motivation.