Goals Affect the Perceived Quality of Explanations


Do people evaluate the quality of explanations differently depending on their goals? In particular, are explanations of different kinds (formal, mechanistic, teleological) judged differently depending on the future judgments the evaluator anticipates making? We report two studies demonstrating that the perceived “goodness” of explanations depends on the evaluator’s current goals, with explanations receiving a relative boost when they are based on relationships that support anticipated judgments. These findings shed light on the functions of explanation and support pragmatic and pluralist approaches to explanation.

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