The Scientific Explanation for Why We Get So Mad at Corporations

Kurt Gray: Our research shows that our perceptions tend to categorize the minds of non-humans along two independent lines: one for thinking and one for feeling. For example, we perceive animals as feelers, and robots as thinkers. We also think of corporations as thinkers, capable of agency but not experiences. In our imaginations, “corporations are cyborgs,” as researchers at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management put it. All this is important because our perceptions of the minds of others form the basis for our moral judgments. In criminal cases, we consider whether the accused has the capacity to distinguish between right and wrong when determining their guilt, which is why children receive less blame than adults. Children are also seen to be greater feelers than adults — more sensitive and vulnerable — which is another reason why we give them less blame. That corporations seem to be invulnerable thinkers means that people are quite quick to assign them blame.


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