The Great Attributional Divide: How Divergent Views of Human Behavior are Shaping Legal Policy
Drexel University Kline School of Law
Jon D. Hanson
Harvard Law School
Emory Law Journal, Vol. 57, 2008
Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 08-38
This article, the first of a multipart series, argues that a major rift runs across many of our major policy debates based on our attributional tendencies: the less accurate dispositionist approach, which explains outcomes and behavior with reference to people's dispositions (i.e., personalities, preferences, and the like), and the more accurate situationist approach, which bases attributions of causation and responsibility on unseen influences within us and around us. Given that situationism offers a truer picture of our world than the alternative, and given that attributional tendencies are largely the result of elements in our situations, identifying the relevant elements should be a major priority of legal scholars. With such information, legal academics could predict which individuals, institutions, and societies are most likely to produce situationist ideas - in other words, which have the greatest potential for developing the accurate attributions of human behavior that are so important to law.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 99
Keywords: law, legal theory, ideology, psychology, situationism, realism
Date posted: March 18, 2008 ; Last revised: February 27, 2011
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