Effects of a communicative goal on causal explanation of social events

Sayaka Suga, Minoru Karasawa, Yosuke Hattori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People often infer the causes of observed actions and events, and explain the causes to others through communication. The present study examined the effects of a communicative goal on the causal explanation of criminal cases. Japanese college students were presented with a criminal case, along with an equal number of potential internal causes and external causes. The extremity of the crime (i.e., murder vs. robbery) was manipulated. Participants were asked to explain what led the protagonist to commit the crime, either in order to help another participant make judgments about the criminal person (i.e., communicative goal condition) or to use the explanation as a basis for their own judgments (i.e., individual goal condition). Participants then responded to a free re- call task. The results revealed that the communicative goal facilitated the use of both internal and external causal information in explanations. Path analyses indicated that causal explanation mediated the effect of the communicative goal on the memory of stimulus information. The importance of communication in the study of causal attribution and related domains were discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-29
Number of pages9
JournalResearch in Social Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Aug
Externally publishedYes


  • Causal attribution
  • Communication
  • Memory of criminal cases
  • Shared cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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