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SuperBias: The Collision of Behavioral Economics and Implicit Social Cognition

Justin D. Levinson

University of Hawaii - William S. Richardson School of Law

August 15, 2011

Akron Law Review, 2012

The rapid growth of two prominent areas of legal scholarship with social scientific similarities, behavioral law and economics and implicit racial bias, has overshadowed the fact that scholars have largely failed to consider what happens when phenomena from the two areas collide. In particular, commentators have not investigated whether powerful implicit racial stereotypes may trump even well established behavioral economic principles when decision-makers make risk allocation decisions. Without considering and empirically testing whether behavioral economic principles yield to racial stereotypes, legal scholars not only risk embracing an incomplete model of human behavior, but they also risk advocating policies that may actually reinforce people’s non-conscious need to maintain social hierarchies.

This Article considers behavioral economic phenomena in light of implicit social cognition research. It argues that human “irrational” behavior yields to racial stereotypes, and employs an empirical study to test this hypothesis. The results of the study are mixed, but in some circumstances confirm the hypothesis that racial stereotypes are powerful enough to alter economic irrationalities, and therefore function as a “SuperBias,” a bias so powerful that it modifies even existing biases. Building on these results, the Article proposes the creation of a stereotype competent model of behavioral law and economics.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 58

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Date posted: January 8, 2012  

Suggested Citation

Levinson, Justin D., SuperBias: The Collision of Behavioral Economics and Implicit Social Cognition (August 15, 2011). Akron Law Review, 2012. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1981248

Contact Information

Justin D. Levinson (Contact Author)
University of Hawaii - William S. Richardson School of Law ( email )
2515 Dole Street
Honolulu, HI 96822-2350
United States
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