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Emote Control: The Substitution of Symbol for Substance in Foreign Policy and International Law

47 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2005  

Jules Lobel

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law

George Loewenstein

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences

Abstract

Historical perspectives, as well as recent work in psychology, converge on the conclusion that human behavior is the product of two or more qualitatively different neural processes that operate according to different principles and often clash with one another. We describe a specific 'dual process' perspective that distinguishes between deliberative and emote control of behavior. We use this framework to shed light on a wide range of legal issues involving foreign policy, terrorism, and international law that are difficult to make sense of in terms of the traditional rational choice perspective. We argue that in these areas, the powerful influence of emotions not only on the general public, but on politicians and judicial decision makers, leads to a substitution of symbol for substance that can be seen at two different levels: (1) in the types of situations and stimuli that drive people to action (namely vivid symbols rather than rational arguments), and (2) in the types of actions that people take - specifically symbolic actions that are superficially satisfying as opposed to more substantive actions that are less immediately satisfying but actually more likely to produce desired long-term results.

Keywords: emotion, law and economics, foreign policy, international law

JEL Classification: A12, K33

Suggested Citation

Lobel, Jules and Loewenstein, George, Emote Control: The Substitution of Symbol for Substance in Foreign Policy and International Law. Chicago Kent Law Review, Vol. 80, July 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=757208

Jules Lobel

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law ( email )

3900 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States
412-648-1400 (Phone)

George F. Loewenstein (Contact Author)

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
412-268-8787 (Phone)
412-268-6938 (Fax)

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