Cultural Cognition and Public Policy: The Case of Outpatient Commitment Laws
Dan M. Kahan
Yale University - Law School; Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania; Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics
George Washington University - Law School; Cultural Cognition Project
University of Virginia School of Law
affiliation not provided to SSRN
Ohio State University - Psychology Department; Decision Research; University of Oregon
Law and Human Behavior, Forthcoming
Cultural Cognition Project Working Paper No. 47
Harvard Law School Program on Risk Regulation Research Paper No. 08-21
What explains controversy over outpatient commitment laws (OCLs), which authorize courts to order persons with mental illness to accept outpatient treatment? We hypothesized that attitudes toward OCLs reflect cultural cognition (DiMaggio 1997), which motivates individuals to conform their beliefs about policy-relevant facts to their cultural values. In a study involving a diverse sample of Americans (N = 1,496), we found that individuals who are hierarchical and communitarian tend to support OCLs, while those who are egalitarian and individualistic tend to oppose them. These relationships, moreover, fit the cultural cognition hypothesis: that is, rather than directly influencing OCL support, cultural values, mediated by affect, shaped individuals' perceptions of how effectively OCLs promote public health and safety. We discuss the implications for informed public deliberation over OCLs.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 51
Keywords: cultural cognition, outpatient commitment
Date posted: July 29, 2008 ; Last revised: April 16, 2013
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