Events / MindCORE Seminar: Jonathan Phillips

MindCORE Seminar: Jonathan Phillips

April 12, 2024
12:00 PM - 1:15 PM

111 Levin Building

We will also stream this seminar via Zoom.
For the link, please contact us:


Jonathan Phillips
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences
Dartmouth College


Domain-general modal thought


Much of high-level cognition relies on the ability to determine what the relevant possibilities are in a particular situation. To judge that someone is morally responsible for a given action requires assessing what other actions were available to that person. To decide what caused something to happen requires determining what else could have happened instead. An important but unanswered question is whether each different high-level judgement relies on a domain-specific representation of the possibilities relevant for that judgement, or whether humans have a domain-general way of representing possibilities that is recruited across various forms of high-level cognition. Here, we provide evidence for the latter hypothesis. In this talk, I’ll introduce a general method for empirically measuring the set of possibilities that people consider to be relevant in a particular situation (through sequential sampling), quantitatively characterize what this set of possibilities looks like, and show that the same representation of possibility is recruited across distinct forms of high-level reasoning, namely force judgments, causal judgments and blame attribution. I’ll then illustrate that this domain-general modal representation of possibilities has a particularly interesting set of features: it is both highly flexible (reflecting even relatively small changes in context), and it also seems to be represented in a compact, heuristic manner, rather than being computed on the fly.



A pizza lunch will be served. Please bring your own beverage.