So here's one for the Knobe effect
folks -- I'm wondering what they would think about the following case:
Last weekend, in the (American) football league, the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs (Andy Reid) rested 20 of his 22 starting players; i.e. the coach played almost exclusively back-up players. He did this because he wanted to rest his starting players for the playoffs, and his team's position in the playoff seeding would not be affected by a win or a loss in last weekend's game against the San Diego Chargers.
Reid's decision (to play almost all back-up players instead of the usual starters) made it more likely that his team would lose to the Chargers. (This has subsequent effects, because the Chargers would go to the playoffs if they won that game.)
(This paragraph is skippable for those familiar with the Knobe effect.) For readers who don't have the Knobe Effect memorized, here's the original form: Suppose an action has a side effect. If that side-effect is considered morally bad, then respondents say the actor intentionally caused that side effect, whereas morally good side effects are judged to be unintentionally caused. After another decade of research, the picture has been altered and expanded somewhat; here's Mark Alfano's summary
"Over the last decade, researchers have greatly expanded the diversity of both the norm-violations that trigger the effect and the psychological states whose attribution exhibits the asymmetry. The effect crops up not only after the violation of a moral norm, but also after the violation of prudential, aesthetic, legal, conventional, and even descriptive norms. The attribution asymmetry is found not only for intentionality, but also for cognitive attitudes such as belief, knowledge, and memory, for conative attitudes such as desire, favor, and advocacy, and for the virtue of compassion and the vice of callousness."
There are further wrinkles as well; in the case of morally wrong laws, the case is reversed: if the side-effect results in following the law (and thus causing a morally bad side-effect), then respondents say it was not
caused on purpose (and conversely for breaking the law, i.e. causing a morally good side effect, was judged to be intentionally caused). Richard Holton has a nice short article
that aims to account for all of these experimental results in terms of convention-breaking.
So now my question is: did Andy Reid intentionally reduce the Chiefs' chances of winning last Sunday? (And thereby intentionally increase the chances of the Chargers to make the playoffs?) To make it match the prompts for the Knobe effect studies, we can imagine that we asked Reid before the game "Do you care about improving the Chargers' chances of winning?" and he said "No, all I care about is resting my starting players."
This seems like an interesting case to me, because there is certainly a norm against intentionally causing your own team to (be more likely to) lose. Match-fixing is widely frowned-upon, and not only when gambling is involved. (Remember the badminton debacle in the 2012 Olympics
, in which eight athletes were thrown out of the competition for trying to lose?) So it seems like (at least some) explanations of the Knobe effect would predict that respondents would say that Reid intentionally decreased his team's chances of winning.