Cultural Cognition at Work

44 Pages Posted: 31 Dec 2009 Last revised: 10 Apr 2010

Date Written: February 16, 2010


Cultural cognition theory provides an anthropological and psychological-based theory about how values actually influence judicial decisionmaking. It suggests that values act as a subconscious influence on cognition rather than as a self-conscious motive of decision-making.

Applying these insights to two controversial United States Supreme Court labor and employment decisions, this Article contends that judges in many instances are not fighting over ideology, but rather over legally-consequential facts. This type of disagreement is particularly prevalent in labor and employment law cases where the factual issues that divide judges involve significant uncertainty and turn on inconclusive evidence. This distinction between ideology and cultural cognition is critical for two connected reasons. First, the identification of cultural worldviews, as opposed to partisan or legal bias, as a major influence on judicial decisionmaking assists in bringing legitimacy back to the judging function. Second, social science research indicates that techniques exist for judges to counteract their susceptibility to this form of biased decisionmaking.

Keywords: cultural cognition, labor and employment law, judicial decisionmaking, self-conscious motive, biased decisionmaking

Suggested Citation

Secunda, Paul M., Cultural Cognition at Work (February 16, 2010). Florida State University Law Review, Vol. 38, No. 1, 2010, Marquette Law School Legal Studies Paper No. 09-40, Available at SSRN: or
No contact information is available for Paul M. Secunda

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