A Theory of Causal Responsibility Attribution
People frequently reward and punish other people if they perceive them to be responsible for the implementation of events that they like or dislike. When the implementation of an event depends on the interaction of multiple persons and, potentially, moves of nature, the determinants of such responsibility perceptions are not well understood. In this paper, I propose a notion of causal responsibility which attempts to objectively capture the causal importance of a person’s action for the implementation of an event in such situations. The notion is based on counterfactual and probabilistic reasoning and can be applied to settings with simultaneous and/or sequential moves. I incorporate the notion in a framework of responsibility preferences and study its implication for behavior and equilibria in strategic settings. Finally, I show that the notion can explain experimentally elicited punishment and reward patterns in multi-agent situations that are not well-explained by existing social preference theories.