FEB 24, 2022 8:00 AM PST

People Expect 'Evil' Characters to Disregard Intentions Behind Requests

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

People think that 'evil' or 'immoral agents- whether people or supernatural beings- disregard intentions behind requests in favor of fulfilling their own aims. The corresponding study was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

When considering good and evil supernatural agents, people tend to believe that those that are evil are more likely to respond to accidental requests. The researchers behind the present study suspected that this might be as people expect moral and immoral agents to differ in their sensitivity to intentions behind requests. Whereas moral agents may consider these intentions, immoral agents overlook them in favor of simple execution. 

The researchers conducted five experiments to understand people's expectations about good and evil agents' decision-making. All in all, 2, 231 people participated in the experiments, which involved reading different short stories about a protagonist's request to either a 'good and moral' or an 'evil and immoral' human or supernatural being, and then rating the likelihood the request would be granted. 

In the end, the researchers found that people expect good agents to be sensitive to intentions behind requests and for evil agents to ignore them- regardless of whether they are human or supernatural beings. They also found that people assume that evil agents are indifferent to things that don't impact their own aims and foci. 

"This research tells us something very interesting about how people view good and evil, which is that people don't just think that evil agents focus exclusively on causing harm, "said Ori Friedman PhD., lead author of the study. 

"Instead, people relate evil to being indifference and to not caring about what people want," Friedman said. "It also suggests that people think moral goodness is about more than producing good outcomes. People also see moral goodness as being connected with caring about what people want and intend," he added.

The researchers say that while their findings suggest people believe that evil agents are less sensitive to intentions when granting requests, they are not sure how far these conclusions may be generalized. For example, in circumstances when an evil agent is intent on harming someone, it is possible that they may care very much about that person's intentions to ultimately use them as a tool for creating further harm. 

 

Sources: Journal of Experimental Social PsychologyScience Daily

About the Author
University College London
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
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