92 Pages Posted: 22 Apr 2015 Last revised: 19 Feb 2016
Date Written: April 6, 2015
This paper reports the results of a study on whether political predispositions influence judicial decisionmaking. The study was designed to overcome the two principal limitations on existing empirical studies that purport to find such an influence: the use of nonexperimental methods to assess the decisions of actual judges; and the failure to use actual judges in ideologically-biased-reasoning experiments. The study involved a sample of sitting judges (n = 253), who, like members of a general public sample (n = 800), were culturally polarized on climate change, marijuana legalization and other contested issues. When the study subjects were assigned to analyze statutory interpretation problems, however, only the responses of the general-public subjects and not those of the judges varied in patterns that reflected the subjects’ cultural values. The responses of a sample of lawyers (n = 217) were also uninfluenced by their cultural values; the responses of a sample of law students (n = 284), in contrast, displayed a level of cultural bias only modestly less pronounced than that observed in the general-public sample. Among the competing hypotheses tested in the study, the results most supported the position that professional judgment imparted by legal training and experience confers resistance to identity-protective cognition — a dynamic associated with politically biased information processing generally — but only for decisions that involve legal reasoning. The scholarly and practical implications of the findings are discussed.
Keywords: motivated reasoning, judicial decisionmaking, ideology, professional judgment
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Kahan, Dan M. and Hoffman, David A. and Evans, Danieli and Devins, Neal and Lucci, Eugene A. and Cheng, Katherine, 'Ideology' or 'Situation Sense'? An Experimental Investigation of Motivated Reasoning and Professional Judgment (April 6, 2015). University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 64, 2016; Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-26. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2590054