'Ideology' or 'Situation Sense'? An Experimental Investigation of Motivated Reasoning and Professional Judgment

92 Pages Posted: 22 Apr 2015 Last revised: 19 Feb 2016

Dan M. Kahan

Yale University - Law School

David A. Hoffman

University of Pennsylvania Law School; Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School

Danieli Evans

Yale Law School; Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School

Neal Devins

William & Mary Law School

Eugene A. Lucci

Government of the State of Ohio - Court of Common Pleas

Katherine Cheng

Cultural Cognition Lab, Yale Law School

Date Written: April 6, 2015

Abstract

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

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

Dan M. Kahan (Contact Author)

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.culturalcognition.net/kahan

David A. Hoffman

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School

127 Wall St
New Haven, CT 06520
United States

Danieli Evans

Yale Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School ( email )

127 Wall St
New Haven, CT 06520
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.culturalcognition.net/danieli-evans-homepage/

Neal Devins

William & Mary Law School ( email )

South Henry Street
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
United States
757-221-3845 (Phone)
757-221-3261 (Fax)

Eugene Andrew Lucci

Government of the State of Ohio - Court of Common Pleas ( email )

47 North Park Place
Painesville, OH 44077
United States
4403502100 (Phone)
4403502210 (Fax)

Katherine Cheng

Cultural Cognition Lab, Yale Law School ( email )

Yale Law School, PO BOX 208215/127 Wall St
New Haven, CT 06511
United States

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