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Reactive Cognition, Reactive Emotion: Toward a More Psychologically Informed Understanding of Reactive Homicide

Psychology, Public Policy & Law, Vol. 14, p. 243, 2008

Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 08-19

20 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2008 Last revised: 14 Apr 2009

Reid Griffith Fontaine

Duke University

Abstract

Recent scholarship has drawn attention to the alternative contributions of dysfunctional reactive cognition (e.g., provocation interpretational bias) and emotion (e.g., provoked fury) in heat of passion killings. Two main theses have been advanced. First, there exists a meaningful parallel between the instrumental/reactive aggression dichotomy in psychology and murder/manslaughter distinction in law. Second, analysis of this parallel suggests that the heat of passion (or provocation) defense disproportionately favors emotional over cognitive dysfunction in mitigating murder to manslaughter. These theses, though, have yet to be fully developed, and raise additional, critical questions that have not yet been addressed. For example, Other than interpretational style, how may social cognitive science inform our understanding of the role of cognitive bias in reactive homicide?, and How is serious interpretational bias related to alternative forms of psychiatric disorder as recognized in law? This Article addresses these and related questions regarding the differential and interactive contributions of dysfunctional cognition and emotion in the execution of reactive homicide.

Keywords: Instrumental, Reactive, Aggression, Violence, Murder, Manslaughter, Provocation, Heat Of Passion, Cognition, Emotion

JEL Classification: K14, K4, K42

Suggested Citation

Fontaine, Reid Griffith, Reactive Cognition, Reactive Emotion: Toward a More Psychologically Informed Understanding of Reactive Homicide. Psychology, Public Policy & Law, Vol. 14, p. 243, 2008; Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 08-19. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1220677

Reid Griffith Fontaine (Contact Author)

Duke University ( email )

United States

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