LATEST WORKS

For a full list see Google Scholar or Publons

  • Immoral professors and malfunctioning tools

    Abstract

    This paper sets a new standard for demonstrating that the effect of norm violations on causal selection is driven by changes in counterfactual relevance. We then outline a number important but unanswered questions about this approach to causal reasoning.

    Jonathan Kominsky, Jonathan Phillips

    Cognitive Science (2019)

    github

  • How We Know What Not To Think

    Abstract

    Humans often represent and reason about unrealized possible actions. But how do we select possible actions that are worth considering from the infinity of unrealized actions better left ignored? We propose that (1) across diverse cognitive tasks, the possible actions we consider are biased towards those of general practical utility and (2) a plausible primary function for this mechanism resides in decision making.

    Jonathan Phillips, Adam Morris, Fiery Cushman

    Trends in Cognitive Sciences (2019)

  • New horizons for a theory of epistemic modals

    Abstract

    Recent debate over the semantics and pragmatics of epistemic modals has focused on intuitions about cross-contextual truth-value assessments. In this paper, we advocate a different approach to evaluating theories of epistemic modals. Our strategy focuses on judgments of the incompatibility of two different epistemic possibility claims, or two different truth value assessments of a single epistemic possibility claim. We subject the predictions of existing theories to empirical scrutiny, and argue that existing contextualist and relativist theories are unable to account for the full pattern of observed judgments. As a way of illustrating the theoretical upshot of these results, we conclude by developing a novel theory of epistemic modals that is able to predict the results.

    Jonathan Phillips, Justin Khoo
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy, (2018)
    preprint     github   OSF    preprint    scholar   .bib    handout

  • Quantitative causal selection patterns in token causation

    Abstract

    This paper provides a quantitative exploration of the puzzling way that causal judgments are affected by the likelihood of the contributing causes, and uncovers some new patterns that are no current theories are well-suited to capture. These results provide a new goalpost for anyone modeling causal selection judgments.

    Adam Morris, Jonathan Phillips, Tobias Gerstenberg, Fiery Cushman

    PLoS ONE 14(8): e0219704 (2019)

    github

  • Sticky situations

    Abstract

    When do we judge that someone was forced to do what they did? One relatively well-established finding is that subjects tend to judge that agents were not forced to do actions when those actions violate norms. A surprising discovery of Young & Phillips 2011 is that this effect seems to disappear when we frame the relevant ‘force’-claim in the active rather than passive voice (pX forced Y to ϕq vs. pY was forced to ϕ by Xq). Young and Phillips found a similar contrast when the scenario itself shifts attention from Y (the forcee) to X (the forcer). We propose that these effects can be (at least partly) explained by way of the role of attention in the setting of quantifier domains which in turn play a role in the evaluation of ‘force’- claims.

    Jonathan Phillips, Matthew Mandelkern
    Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT), 28 (2018)
    OSF   github   pre-registration

  • Knowledge wh and False Beliefs

    Abstract

    We consider the phenomenon of false-belief sensitivity–a challenge to the common approach to knowledge wh. Across six experiments, our results provide evidence that truth judgments of knowledge wh ascriptions are affected by both the presence of false beliefs and the proportion of the subject’s beliefs that are false.

    Jonathan Phillips, B R George

    Journal of Semantics (2018)

    github   OSF   preprint   scholar    .bib   handout

  • The psychological representation of modality

    Abstract

    We argue that recent work on the impact of physical law, morality and probability on people’s judgments provides evidence for a more general hypothesis about the kind of cognition people use to think about possibilities. We suggest that this aspect of cognition is best understood using an idea developed within work in formal semantics: modality.

    Jonathan Phillips, Joshua Knobe

    Mind & Language (2018)

    For a quick and easy summary, check out this blog post!

    scholar  .bib

  • Factive theory of mind

    Abstract

    We offer an account on which tracking another agent’s understanding of the world and keeping that representation separate from one’s own are the essential features of a capacity for theory of mind. Using this, we demonstrate how to tell when factive representations, e.g., what others see, hear, or know, provide evidence for theory of mind.

    Jonathan Phillips, Aaron Norby

    Mind & Langauge (2018)

    preprint     supplement

  • Differentiating could from should

    Abstract

    We show that young children have difficulty distinguishing immoral events from impossible ones, and impossible events from immoral ones. The ability to differentiate between the possibiity and wrongness of different kinds of abnormal events is a developmental achievement.

    Andrew Shtulman, Jonathan Phillips

    Journal of Child Development (2018)

    scholar  OSF    poster  .bib

  • Morality constrains the default representation

    Abstract

    Three studies differentiate explicit reasoning about possibilities from default implicit representations, demonstrate that human adults often default to treating immoral and irrational events as impossible, and demonstrate that high-level cognitive judgments rely on default implicit representations of possibility rather than explicit reasoning.

    Jonathan Phillips, Fiery Cushman

    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2017)

    Check out some of the coverage in Aeon, Harvard Gazette, a radio interview, or Science Breakers

    Supporting Information   .bib   github   scholar     blog post

  • True Happiness

    Abstract

    Five studies demonstrate that the orindary concept of happiness deviates from the definition used by researchers studying happiness: the ordinary concept is sensitive to the perceived moral value of the life lived.

    Jonathan Phillips, Christian Mott, Julian De Freitas, June Gruber, Joshua Knobe

    Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (2017)

    See the discussion of this work at Psychology Today or PEA Soup

    preprint     github     poster    scholar   .bib

  • Causation and norms of proper functioning

    Abstract

    We demonstrate that causal judgments of inanimate objects are highly sensitive to whether the object violated a prescriptive norm by malfunctioning and that this effect is well-explained by changes in the relevance of counterfactual alternatives.

    Jonathan Phillips, Jonathan Kominsky

    Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (2017)

    OSF repository   github   scholar    poster   .bib

  • Unifying morality's influence on non-moral judgments

    Abstract

    Past work has demonstrated that people’s moral judgments can influence their judgments about freedom, causation, the doing/allowing distinction, and intentional action. Nine studies show that the effect of morality in these four domains can be explained in a unified manner by changes in the relevance of alternative possibilities.

    Jonathan Phillips, Jamie Luguri, Joshua Knobe

    Cognition (2015)

    Here’s a summary blog post

    preprint   github    poster    scholar

  • Knowledge before belief

    Abstract

    Drawing on evidence from a wide range of fields in cognitive science that employ diverse methodologies, we find, across every field and method, robust evidence that knowledge is a more basic mental-state representation than belief, and that representations of knowledge do not depend on representations of belief.

    Jonathan Phillips, Wesley Buckwlater, Fiery Cushman, Ori Friedman, Alia Martin, John Turri, Laurie Santos, Joshua Knobe

    41st annual meeting of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology (2015/6)

  • A second look at automatic theory of mind

    Abstract

    Recent research by Kovács, Téglás, & Endress (2010) argued that human adults automatically represent other agents’ beliefs even when those beliefs were completely irrelevant to the task being performed. In a series of eight studies, we replicate the previous findings but demonstrate that the effects found in this work arose from artifacts in the experimental paradigm.

    Jonathan Phillips, Desmond Ong, Andrew Surtees, Jean Xin, Samantha Williams, Rebecca Saxe, Michael Frank

    Psychological Science (2015)

    Here’s a blog post about this work, and here’s an important update (both by Michael Frank)

    preprint     github     scholar     demo     .bib    markdown version

  • Causal superseding

    Abstract

    When agents violate norms, they are typically judged to be more of a cause of resulting outcomes. In this paper, we suggest that norm violations also affect the causality attributed to other agents, a phenomenon we refer to as ‘causal superseding’.

    Jonathan Kominsky, Jonathan Phillips, Tobias Gerstenberg, David Lagnado, Joshua Knobe

    Cognition (2015)

    preprint     scholar     CogSci proceeding     .bib

  • Manipulating Morality

    Abstract

    The present studies investigate how the intentions of third parties influence judgments of moral responsibility for other agents who commit immoral acts. Using cases in which an agent acts under some situational constraint brought about by a third party, we ask whether the agent is blamed less for the immoral act when the third party intended for that act to occur.

    Manipulating Morality: Third-Party Intentions Alters Moral Judgments by Changing Causal Reasoning
    Jonathan Phillips, Alex Shaw
    Cognitive Science (2014)
    preprint     github     osf    update     blog     media     scholar     .bib

  • The paradox of moral focus

    Abstract

    When we evaluate moral agents, we consider many factors, including whether the agent acted freely, or under duress or coercion. In turn, moral evaluations have been shown to influence our (non-moral) evaluations of these same factors. For example, when we judge an agent to have acted immorally, we are subsequently more likely to judge the agent to have acted freely, not under force. Here, we investigate the cognitive signatures of this effect in interpersonal situations, in which one agent (“forcer”) forces another agent (“forcee”) to act either immorally or morally. The structure of this relationship allowed us to ask questions about both the “forcer” and the “forcee.” Paradoxically, participants judged that the “forcer” forced the “forcee” to act immorally (i.e. X forced Y), but that the “forcee” was not forced to act immorally (i.e. Y was not forced by X).

    Liane Young, Jonathan Phillips
    Cognition (2011)
    preprint     scholar     CogSci proceeding     .bib

Full List

How we know what not to think
Jonathan Phillips, Adam Morris, Fiery Cushman
Trends in Cognitive Sciences (2019)

Knowledge before belief
Jonathan Phillips, Wesley Buckwlater, Fiery Cushman, Ori Friedman, Alia Martin, John Turri, Laurie Santos, Joshua Knobe
41st annual meeting of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology (2015/6)

Immoral professors and malfunctioning tools: Counterfactual relevance accounts explain the effect of norm violations on causal selection
Jonathan Kominsky, Jonathan Phillips
Cognitive Science (2019)
github

Factive theory of mind
Jonathan Phillips, Aaron Norby
Mind & Langauge (2017)
preprint     supplement

Quantitative causal selection patterns in token causation
Adam Morris, Jonathan Phillips, Tobias Gerstenberg, Fiery Cushman
PLoS ONE 14(8): e0219704 (2019)
github

Sticky situations: Force and quantifier domains
Jonathan Phillips , Matthew Mandelkern
Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT), 28 (2018)
OSF   github   pre-registration

Estimating the Reproducibility of Experimental Philosophy
Florian Cova, Brent Strickland, … Jonathan Phillips , et al.
Review of Philosophy and Psychology (in press)
OSF

New horizons for a theory of epistemic modals
Jonathan Phillips , Justin Khoo
Australasian Journal of Philosophy, (2018)
preprint     github   OSF   preprint    scholar    .bib   handout

Knowledge wh and False Beliefs: Experimental Investigations
Jonathan Phillips , B R George
Journal of Semantics (2018)
github   OSF   preprint   scholar    .bib   handout

The psychological representation of modality
Jonathan Phillips , Joshua Knobe
Mind & Language (2018)
scholar   .bib

Differentiating could from should: Developmental changes in modal cognition
Andrew Shtulman, Jonathan Phillips
Journal of Child Development (2018)
scholar   OSF   poster  .bib

Causation and norms of proper functioning: Counterfactuals are (still) relevant
Jonathan Phillips , Jonathan Kominsky
Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (2017)
OSF repository   github   scholar    poster   .bib

Morality constrains the default representation of what is possible
Jonathan Phillips , Fiery Cushman
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2017)
Supporting Information    .bib  github  scholar     blog post

True happiness: The role of morality in the folk concept of happiness
Jonathan Phillips , Christian Mott, Julian De Freitas, June Gruber, Joshua Knobe
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (2017)
preprint     github     poster    scholar   .bib

Unifying morality’s influence on non-moral judgments: The relevance of alternative possibilities
Jonathan Phillips , Jamie Luguri, Joshua Knobe
Cognition (2015)
preprint   github    poster    scholar     .bib

A second look at automatic theory of mind: Reconsidering Kovács, Téglás, and Endress (2010)
Jonathan Phillips , Desmond Ong, Andrew Surtees, Jean Xin, Samantha Williams, Rebecca Saxe, Michael Frank
Psychological Science (2015)
preprint     github     scholar     demo     .bib    markdown version

Causal superseding
Jonathan Kominsky, Jonathan Phillips , Tobias Gerstenberg, David Lagnado, Joshua Knobe
Cognition (2015)
preprint     scholar     CogSci proceeding     .bib

The good in happiness
Jonathan Phillips , Sven Nyholm, Shen-yi Liao
Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy (2014)
preprint     interview     scholar     .bib

Manipulating morality: Third-party intentions alter moral judgments by changing causal reasoning
Jonathan Phillips , Alex Shaw
Cognitive Science (2014)
preprint     github     osf    update     blog     media     scholar     .bib

The paradox of moral focus
Liane Young, Jonathan Phillips
Cognition (2011)
preprint     scholar     CogSci proceeding     .bib

The ordinary concept of happiness (and others like it)
Jonathan Phillips , Luke Misenheimer, Joshua Knobe
Emotion Review (2011)
preprint     scholar     .bib    supplementary materials     YouTube

Moral judgments and intuitions about freedom
Jonathan Phillips , Joshua Knobe
Emotion Review (2009)
preprint     scholar     .bib     YouTube

CONTACT ME

I am a part of the Program in Cognitive Science at Dartmouth College.


PhilLab Address:
Carpenter Hall, Dartmouth College
Hanover, 03755