Corporations don’t have brains, but do they have minds? Or to put it in the lingo of philosophers and neuroscientists, do corporations have ‘mental states?’ Or, instead, when we say “Apple wants our money,” are we simply using a metaphor, one that refers obliquely to the fact that Apple’s senior managers — real human beings — want our money? The study discussed below suggests that while regular people claim to reject the idea that corporations have minds, they certainly act like they do believe that corporations have minds. This matters for lots of reasons; not least because it has implications for legal culpability. After all, one key element of attributing legal responsibility for an illegal act is typically to decide whether the entity involved (human or otherwise) intended to do it. >>>
…To address this objection, we ran a quick follow-up study. In this study, we gave people a series of brief vignettes about corporations and other organizations. Then we asked in each case whether the organization itself had a certain mental state and also whether the individual human beings in the organization had that mental state. Strikingly, people were often happy to say that the organization itself had a certain mental state even when they thought that there wasn’t a single human being within the organization who had that state…..
What do you think? (One suggestion: don’t assume that “mind” means “mind-in-the-same-sense-as-humans”. Do you need to expand your thinking about what a mind is?)