Intuitions in decision theory: Empirical evidence

Talk given at the Melbourne-Glasgow Formal Philosophy Workshop

Work co-authored with Adam Bales (Cambridge) and Josh May (UA–Birmingham)

Abstract: The rivalry between causal decision theory and evidential decision theory is one of the central debates in the field. At least superficially, the discussion has involved heavy reliance on thought experiments and the intuitions generated by those thought experiments. In this talk I present some recent empirical work that attempts to assess whether folk intuitions about these cases are liable to be affected by a number of possible confounds present in the original thought experiments. In particular, we examine the so-called Psychopath Button – a case which involves the option to commit murder – and find evidence that the moral valence of the decision involved has a substantial effect on folk intuitions. We also describe a second experiment (data collection still underway) in which we test for effects of extreme stakes, extreme probabilities, and causal structure on intuitions in Newcomb's puzzle and related cases.

Slides (PDF 5.8MB)