write:They made a film which lasts all of oneminute and forty seconds in which you see a large triangle a smalltriangle and a circle moving around a shape that looks like a schematic

at about the same time as Michotte published hisdemonstrations of physical causality
the psychologists Fritz Heider andMary-Ann Simmel used a method similar to Michotte’s to demonstrate theperception of intentional causality. They made a film
which lasts all of oneminute and forty seconds
in which you see a large triangle
a smalltriangle
and a circle moving around a shape that looks like a schematicview of a house with an open door. Viewers see an aggressive largetriangle bullying a smaller triangle
a terrified circle
the circle and the smalltriangle joining forces to defeat the bully; they also observe muchinteraction around a door and then an explosive finale. The perception ofintention and emotion is irresistible; only people afflicted by autism do notexperience it. All this is entirely in your mind
of course. Your mind is readyand even eager to identify agents
assign them personality traits andspecific intentions
and view their actions as expressing individualpropensities. Here again
the evidence is that we are born prepared tomake intentional attributions: infants under one year old identify bullies andvictims
and expect a pursuer to follow the most direct path in attempting tocatch whatever it is chasing.The experience of freely willed action is quite separate from physicalcausality. Although it is your hand that picks up the salt
you do not think ofthe event in terms of a chain of physical causation. You experience it ascaused by a decision that a disembodied you made
because you wantedto add salt to your food. Many people find it natural to describe their soulas the source and the cause of their actions. The psychologist Paul Bloom
writing in The Atlantic in 2005
presented the provocative claim that ourinborn readiness to separate physical and intentional causality explains thenear universality of religious beliefs. He observes that “we perceive theworld of objects as essentially separate from the world of minds
making itpossible for us to envision soulless bodies and bodiless souls.” The twomodes of causation that we are set to perceive make it natural for us toaccept the two central beliefs of many religions: an immaterial divinity isthe ultimate cause of the physical world
and immortal souls temporarilycontrol our bodies while we live and leave them behind as we die. InBloom’s view
the two concepts of causality were shaped separately byevolutionary forces
building the origins of religion into the structure ofSystem 1.The prominence of causal intuitions is a recurrent theme in this bookbecause people are prone to apply causal thinking inappropriately


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