The Great Attributional Divide: How Divergent Views of Human Behavior are Shaping Legal Policy

99 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2008 Last revised: 27 Feb 2011

Adam Benforado

Drexel University Kline School of Law

Jon D. Hanson

Harvard Law School

Abstract

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.

Keywords: law, legal theory, ideology, psychology, situationism, realism

Suggested Citation

Benforado, Adam and Hanson, Jon D., The Great Attributional Divide: How Divergent Views of Human Behavior are Shaping Legal Policy. Emory Law Journal, Vol. 57, 2008; Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 08-38. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1106684

Adam Benforado

Drexel University Kline School of Law ( email )

3320 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Jon D. Hanson (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1563 Massachusetts
Griswold 403
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
607-496-5207 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.harvard.edu/faculty/directory/facdir.php?id=25

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