Emotions in lay explanations of behavior


Humans use rich intuitive theories to explain other people’s behavior. Previous work in lay psychology of behavior have tended to treat emotion as causing primarily unintentional behavior (e.g., being sad causes one to cry), neglecting how people incorporate emotions into explanations of rational, intentional actions. Here, we provide preliminary explorations into integrating emotions into a theory of folk psychology. Specifically, we show that in the lay theory, people are willing to endorse emotions as causes of intentional actions. Moreover, people readily attribute beliefs and desires as explanations for emotional expressions. This work provides a first step in elaborating people’s rich understanding of emotions as an important component of intuitive social cognition.

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