Implicit Causality as Implicit Salience

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Abstract

In past research, Ss attributed interpersonal actions more to agents than to patients and interpersonal experiences more to stimuli than to experiencers. For example, in the sentences “A cheats B” and “A shocks B,” the act of cheating and the experience of shock were attributed more to A than to B. These and related findings are explained in terms of salience. In Study 1, people reading simple 3rd-person sentences judged agents to be more salient than patients and stimuli to be more salient than experiencers. In Study 2, the usual pattern of attributing actions primarily to agents and experiences primarily to stimuli was eliminated by manipulating sentence form so that the reader was depicted as actor rather than observer. In Study 3, sentences describing accidental collisions between inanimate entities implied greater salience and causality of agents than patients.

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