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1.  On the Supposed Evidence for Libertarian Paternalism 
Can the general public learn to deal with risk and uncertainty, or do authorities need to steer people’s choices in the right direction? Libertarian paternalists argue that results from psychological research show that our reasoning is systematically flawed and that we are hardly educable because our cognitive biases resemble stable visual illusions. For that reason, they maintain, authorities who know what is best for us need to step in and steer our behavior with the help of “nudges.” Nudges are nothing new, but justifying them on the basis of a latent irrationality is. In this article, I analyze the scientific evidence presented for such a justification. It suffers from narrow logical norms, that is, a misunderstanding of the nature of rational thinking, and from a confirmation bias, that is, selective reporting of research. These two flaws focus the blame on individuals’ minds rather than on external causes, such as industries that spend billions to nudge people into unhealthy behavior. I conclude that the claim that we are hardly educable lacks evidence and forecloses the true alternative to nudging: teaching people to become risk savvy.
PMCID: PMC4512281  PMID: 26213590
2.  Artifacts and essentialism 
Psychological essentialism is an intuitive folk belief positing that certain categories have a non-obvious inner “essence” that gives rise to observable features. Although this belief most commonly characterizes natural kind categories, I argue that psychological essentialism can also be extended in important ways to artifact concepts. Specifically, concepts of individual artifacts include the non-obvious feature of object history, which is evident when making judgments regarding authenticity and ownership. Classic examples include famous works of art (e.g., the Mona Lisa is authentic because of its provenance), but ordinary artifacts likewise receive value from their history (e.g., a worn and tattered blanket may have special value if it was one's childhood possession). Moreover, in some cases, object history may be thought to have causal effects on individual artifacts, much as an animal essence has causal effects. I review empirical support for these claims and consider the implications for both artifact concepts and essentialism. This perspective suggests that artifact concepts cannot be contained in a theoretical framework that focuses exclusively on similarity or even function. Furthermore, although there are significant differences between essentialism of natural kinds and essentialism of artifact individuals, the commonalities suggest that psychological essentialism may not derive from folk biology but instead may reflect more domain-general perspectives on the world.
PMCID: PMC3747004  PMID: 23976903
3.  Dead Reckoning in the Desert Ant: A Defence of Connectionist Models 
Dead reckoning is a feature of the navigation behaviour shown by several creatures, including the desert ant. Recent work by C. Randy Gallistel shows that some connectionist models of dead reckoning face important challenges. These challenges are thought to arise from essential features of the connectionist approach, and have therefore been taken to show that connectionist models are unable to explain even the most primitive of psychological phenomena. I show that Gallistel’s challenges are successfully met by one recent connectionist model, proposed by Ulysses Bernardet, Sergi Bermúdez i Badia, and Paul F.M.J. Verschure. The success of this model suggests that there are ways to implement dead reckoning with neural circuits that fall within the bounds of what many people regard as neurobiologically plausible, and so that the wholesale dismissal of the connectionist modelling project remains premature.
PMCID: PMC4022985  PMID: 24839470
4.  Artefacts and Family Resemblance 
I develop in this paper a conception of artefacts based on L. Wittgenstein’s idea of family resemblance. My approach peruses the notion of frame, which was invented in cognitive psychology as an operationisable extension of this philosophical idea. Following the metaphor of life-cycle I show how this schematic notion of frame may be filled with the content relevant for artefacts if we consider them from the point of view of their histories. The resulting conception of artefacts provides a new insight into the current debate on artefact categorisation.
PMCID: PMC3735962  PMID: 23956810
5.  Early Developments in Joint Action 
Joint action, critical to human social interaction and communication, has garnered increasing scholarly attention in many areas of inquiry, yet its development remains little explored. This paper reviews research on the growth of joint action over the first 2 years of life to show how children become progressively more able to engage deliberately, autonomously, and flexibly in joint action with adults and peers. It is suggested that a key mechanism underlying the dramatic changes in joint action over the second year of life is the ability to reflect consciously on oneself and one’s behavior and volition and correspondingly, on the behavior, goals, and intentions of others.
PMCID: PMC3474705  PMID: 23087769
6.  Early Social Cognition: Alternatives to Implicit Mindreading 
According to the BD-model of mindreading, we primarily understand others in terms of beliefs and desires. In this article we review a number of objections against explicit versions of the BD-model, and discuss the prospects of using its implicit counterpart as an explanatory model of early emerging socio-cognitive abilities. Focusing on recent findings on so-called ‘implicit’ false belief understanding, we put forward a number of considerations against the adoption of an implicit BD-model. Finally, we explore a different way to make sense of implicit false belief understanding in terms of keeping track of affordances.
PMCID: PMC3339022  PMID: 22593773
Philosophy; Epistemology; Neurosciences; Cognitive Psychology; Philosophy of Science; Developmental Psychology; Philosophy of Mind
7.  The Epistemic Status of Processing Fluency as Source for Judgments of Truth 
This article combines findings from cognitive psychology on the role of processing fluency in truth judgments with epistemological theory on justification of belief. We first review evidence that repeated exposure to a statement increases the subjective ease with which that statement is processed. This increased processing fluency, in turn, increases the probability that the statement is judged to be true. The basic question discussed here is whether the use of processing fluency as a cue to truth is epistemically justified. In the present analysis, based on Bayes’ Theorem, we adopt the reliable-process account of justification presented by Goldman (1986) and show that fluency is a reliable cue to truth, under the assumption that the majority of statements one has been exposed to are true. In the final section, we broaden the scope of this analysis and discuss how processing fluency as a potentially universal cue to judged truth may contribute to cultural differences in commonsense beliefs.
PMCID: PMC3339024  PMID: 22558063
Philosophy; Philosophy of Science; Developmental Psychology; Epistemology; Neurosciences ; Cognitive Psychology; Philosophy of Mind
8.  Similarity After Goodman 
In a famous critique, Goodman dismissed similarity as a slippery and both philosophically and scientifically useless notion. We revisit his critique in the light of important recent work on similarity in psychology and cognitive science. Specifically, we use Tversky’s influential set-theoretic account of similarity as well as Gärdenfors’s more recent resuscitation of the geometrical account to show that, while Goodman’s critique contained valuable insights, it does not warrant a dismissal of similarity.
PMCID: PMC3339023  PMID: 22558064
Philosophy; Neurosciences ; Philosophy of Mind; Epistemology; Philosophy of Science; Developmental Psychology; Cognitive Psychology
9.  Investigating the Neural and Cognitive Basis of Moral Luck: It’s Not What You Do but What You Know 
Moral judgments, we expect, ought not to depend on luck. A person should be blamed only for actions and outcomes that were under the person’s control. Yet often, moral judgments appear to be influenced by luck. A father who leaves his child by the bath, after telling his child to stay put and believing that he will stay put, is judged to be morally blameworthy if the child drowns (an unlucky outcome), but not if his child stays put and doesn’t drown. Previous theories of moral luck suggest that this asymmetry reflects primarily the influence of unlucky outcomes on moral judgments. In the current study, we use behavioral methods and fMRI to test an alternative: these moral judgments largely reflect participants’ judgments of the agent’s beliefs. In “moral luck” scenarios, the unlucky agent also holds a false belief. Here, we show that moral luck depends more on false beliefs than bad outcomes. We also show that participants with false beliefs are judged as having less justified beliefs and are therefore judged as more morally blameworthy. The current study lends support to a rationalist account of moral luck: moral luck asymmetries are driven not by outcome bias primarily, but by mental state assessments we endorse as morally relevant, i.e. whether agents are justified in thinking that they won’t cause harm.
PMCID: PMC3339027  PMID: 22558062
Philosophy; Philosophy of Science; Developmental Psychology; Epistemology; Neurosciences ; Cognitive Psychology; Philosophy of Mind
10.  Practical Interests, Relevant Alternatives, and Knowledge Attributions: an Empirical Study 
In defending his interest-relative account of knowledge, Jason Stanley relies heavily on intuitions about several bank cases. We experimentally test the empirical claims that Stanley seems to make concerning our common-sense intuitions about these cases. Additionally, we test the empirical claims that Jonathan Schaffer seems to make, regarding the salience of an alternative, in his critique of Stanley. Our data indicate that neither raising the possibility of error nor raising stakes moves most people from attributing knowledge to denying it. However, the raising of stakes (but not alternatives) does affect the level of confidence people have in their attributions of knowledge. We argue that our data impugn what both Stanley and Schaffer claim our common-sense judgments about such cases are.
PMCID: PMC3339025  PMID: 22558061
Philosophy; Philosophy of Science; Developmental Psychology; Neuropsychology; Epistemology; Cognitive Psychology; Philosophy of Mind
11.  Do Ethicists and Political Philosophers Vote More Often Than Other Professors? 
If philosophical moral reflection improves moral behavior, one might expect ethics professors to behave morally better than socially similar non-ethicists. Under the assumption that forms of political engagement such as voting have moral worth, we looked at the rate at which a sample of professional ethicists—and political philosophers as a subgroup of ethicists—voted in eight years’ worth of elections. We compared ethicists’ and political philosophers’ voting rates with the voting rates of three other groups: philosophers not specializing in ethics, political scientists, and a comparison group of professors specializing in neither philosophy nor political science. All groups voted at about the same rate, except for the political scientists, who voted about 10–15% more often. On the face of it, this finding conflicts with the expectation that ethicists will behave more responsibly than non-ethicists.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s13164-009-0011-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3339026  PMID: 22558060
Philosophy; Philosophy of Science; Developmental Psychology; Neuropsychology; Epistemology; Cognitive Psychology; Philosophy of Mind

Results 1-11 (11)