Individual Differences in the Intentionality Bias and its Association with Cognitive Empathy

Slavny, R J M and Moore, James W.. 2018. Individual Differences in the Intentionality Bias and its Association with Cognitive Empathy. Personality and Individual Differences, 122, pp. 104-108. ISSN 0191-8869 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Previous research indicates that we tend to over-attribute intention when interpreting the actions of others. This ‘intentionality bias’ is explained by a dual-process model of intention attribution (Rosset, 2008). However, it is currently unclear whether individual differences exist in the intentionality bias, and specifically whether cognitive and/or affective empathy skills are associated with hyper-intentionality. In the current study, we adopted Rosset’s (2008) ambiguous sentence paradigm to test whether individual differences in the intentionality bias are associated with self-reported perspective taking, online simulation, emotion contagion, proximal responsivity and peripheral responsivity. Regression analyses revealed that cognitive empathy, but not affective empathy, significantly predicted the proportion of intentional judgements when participants were asked to interpret ambiguous sentences that were prototypically accidental. Moreover, greater perspective taking skills predicted a higher proportion of intentional over accidental judgements of ambiguous actions. The implications of these findings for understanding prosocial behaviour and ‘shared intentionality’ among humans are discussed.

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Intentionality, Intention attribution, Cognitive bias, Social cognition, Empathy, Perspective taking

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9 October 2017Accepted
21 October 2017Published Online
1 February 2018Published

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Date Deposited:

10 Oct 2017 15:47

Last Modified:

09 Oct 2019 01:26

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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