"Hostile intent attribution" (HIA) refers to the tendency of people to think that others have bad intent when bringing about negative situations (e.g. injuries). For instance, people find it harder to believe that others can hurt them by chance or negligence, but tend to think that others hurt them intentionally.

At first glance, this seems like a trait that carries an evolutionary advantage for groups to discipline their members. The risk of letting some individuals run wild and keep hurting others (perhaps intentionally) while being repeatedly pardoned is much larger than the over-punishing induced by HIA. HIA also seems highly related to the idea of Hyperactive Agency Detection Device.

Thus, my question is: are there any existing formal theories that explain HIA from an evolutionary perspective?


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