Overview

We (myself, Billy Dunaway, with Anna Edmonds and David Manley) conducted a meta-survey about experimental philosophy. We were interested in the question of whether the sorts of studies that appear in the experimental philosophy literature were surprising. 300 philosophers completed the survey. They were asked to suppose that non-philosophers were given a survey question, and then to predict how the non-philosopher would respond. The philosophers in our study were given the option to signal that they had prior familiarity with relevant experimental literature and could not provide an unbiased answer. They were given the following instruction:

If you find any of the questions familiar, please indicate that fact rather than answering the question. If you feel as if your answer might be influenced by prior exposure to results involving similar cases, please select 'unable to provide an unbiased answer'.

 

Our study asked about four separate surveys from the experimental philosophy literature:


Our hypothesis was that the original results of these studies would not be surprising to philosophers (for each study, there are claims in the experimental philosophy literature that the results of these studies are surprising). Our results supported this, as in each case, at least 73% of philosophers who claimed to have no prior familiarity with these studies predicted how non-philosophers would respond.


Our respondents answered one of two surveys. In the first, we removed any detailed information about the size and demographic of the original study population. This was to avoid the appearance that the questions that appeared in our survey had been published, hence have interesting results. The second included some information concerning the study size and demographic features of the original respondents. (Philosophers who took the survey were not told that the information described actual survey respondents; instead they were explicitly told there was a possibility the study had not been conducted, and were instructed to answer based on what they thought the results would be, if the survey were actually conducted.)


Click on the links below (mouse over for titles) to see more detailed descriptions of our survey questions and responses.

 

» Question 1: Moral Judgment and Causation » Question 2: Intentional Action
» Question 3: Causation » Question 4: Determinism and Moral Responsibility