Naive Cynicism: Maintaining False Perceptions in Policy Debates
Drexel University School of Law
Jon D. Hanson
Harvard Law School
Emory Law Journal, Vol. 57, 2008
Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 08-37
This is the second article in a multi-part series. In the first part, The Great Attributional Divide, the authors suggested that a major rift runs across many of our major policy debates based on contrasting attributional tendencies (dispositionist and situationist). This article explores how dispositionism maintains its dominance despite the fact that it misses so much of what actually moves us. It argues that the answer lies in a subordinate dynamic and discourse, naïve cynicism: the basic subconscious mechanism by which dispositionists discredit and dismiss situationist insights and their proponents. Without it, the dominant person schema - dispositionism - would be far more vulnerable to challenge and change, and the more accurate person schema - situationism - less easily and effectively attacked. Naïve cynicism is thus critically important to explaining how and why certain legal policies manage to carry the day.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 77
Keywords: law, legal theory, ideology, psychology, situationism, realism, naive realism, abu ghraibAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: March 18, 2008 ; Last revised: September 30, 2008
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