Expectations bias judgments of harm against others

Derek Powell, Zachary Horne

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


People’s expectations play an important role in their evaluations and reactions to events. There is often disappointment when events fail to meet expectations—sometimes even when the events are still positive overall—and there is a special thrill to having one’s expectations exceeded. In four studies, we examined how expectations influence people’s judgments of events where another person or people were harmed. Participants judged pairs of events where a victim experienced a similar harm, but where victims were at different prior risk of being harmed. We found that people judged these events as being worse when they were less expected–that is, when the victims were initially at lower risk of being harmed. We argue that this bias has pernicious moral consequences
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society
Place of PublicationAustin, TX
PublisherCognitive Science Society
ISBN (Print)9780991196784
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes
Event40th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society - Madison, United States
Duration: 25 Jul 201828 Jul 2018


Conference40th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society
Abbreviated titleCogSci 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address

Cite this