Culpable control and the psychology of blame

Psychol Bull. 2000 Jul;126(4):556-74. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.126.4.556.


A culpable control model is advanced to describe the conditions that encourage as well as mitigate blame and to assess the process by which blame and mitigation occur. The fundamental assumptions of the model are that evidence concerning harmful events is scrutinized for its contribution to personal control and spontaneously evaluated for its favorableness or unfavorableness. Spontaneous evaluations encourage a blame-validation mode of processing in which evidence concerning the event is reviewed in a manner that favors ascribing blame to the person or persons who evoke the most negative affect or whose behavior confirms unfavorable expectations. The author delineates the elements of perceived control and then discusses spontaneous evaluation influences on control and blame assessments. The blame-validation process is described next. Finally, the culpable control model is compared with extant theories of blame and responsibility and its basic tenets summarized.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Models, Statistical
  • Projection*
  • Social Control, Informal*
  • Social Perception*