We do not have direct access to others’ mental lives, to their thoughts, feelings, or beliefs. And yet, daily, social interactions proceed according to guesses about what others think, feel, and believe. Sometimes, such inferences about others’ personal subjective experiences are the basis of formal and consequential judgment processes. For example, doctors decide how to treat their patients based in part on guesses about what those patients are feeling; judges and juries decide how to rule on cases based in part on guesses about what the accused was thinking.
This panel will discuss original psychological research, as well as broader conclusions and open questions, about how such mental-state inferences occur in institutionalized contexts, in some cases with life or death consequences.
First, Professor Sophie Trawalter will discuss how patient race affects medical treatment for pain. Offering a partial explanation for the established observation that Black Americans are systematically undertreated for pain relative to White Americans, Trawalter’s research demonstrates that the bias in treatment recommendations is related to false beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whites (e.g., “black people’s skin is thicker”) and the faulty conclusion that blacks therefore feel less pain in response to the same physical injury than whites. The discussion will then shift to a courtroom context and norms or rules related to how evidence is presented. Professor Benjamin Converse will discuss research documenting a “slow-motion bias,” whereby slowed (vs. regular-speed) replays systematically increase judgments of intent, potentially changing the likelihood of convicting someone of second- versus first-degree murder.
Benjamin Converse , Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Psychology, Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, University of Virgina.
Sophie Trawalter , Associate Professor of Public Policy and Psychology, Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, University of Virgina.
Joachim Krueger , Professor of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences, Brown University.
Moderator: Eric Patashnik , Julis-Rabinowitz Professor of Public Policy, Professor of Political Science, and Director of Brown’s Master of Public Affairs program.