Philosophically Speaking: The Knobe effect

Aristotle /Wikipedia
Aristotle /Wikipedia

WHAT is The Knobe effect? Good question! It’s essentially this:

If a consequence of an action is foreseen but not intended, then that consequence is a side effect. The “Knobe effect” is the phenomenon where people tend to judge that a bad side effect is brought about intentionally, whereas a good side effect is judged not to be brought about intentionally.

The example goes like this:

The CEO of a company is sitting in his office when his Vice President of R&D comes in and says, ‘We are thinking of starting a new program. It will help us increase profits, but it will also harm the environment.’ The CEO responds that he doesn’t care about harming the environment and just wants to make as much profit as possible. The program is carried out, profits are made and the environment is harmed.

Did the CEO intentionally harm the environment? Most people answered YES! Indeed, the vast majority of people Knobe quizzed – 82 per cent said he did.

Now, what if the scenario is changed such that the word ‘harm’ is replaced with ‘help’? That is, The CEO of a company is sitting in his office when his Vice President of R&D comes in and says, ‘We are thinking of starting a new program. It will help us increase profits, and it will also help the environment.’ The CEO responds that he doesn’t care about helping the environment and just wants to make as much profit as possible. The program is carried out, profits are made and the environment is helped.

Did the CEO intentionally help the environment? Funnily enough only 23 per cent said yes.

Thus showing what The Knobe effect is all about.