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Law, Politics, and Perception

How Policy Preferences Influence Legal Reasoning
Eileen Braman


BUY Cloth · 256 pp. · 6.13 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813928296 · $49.50 · Oct 2009
BUY Ebook · 256 pp. · ISBN 9780813928371 · $49.50 · Oct 2009

C. Herman Pritchett Award, American Political Science Association (2011)

Are judges' decisions more likely to be based on personal inclinations or legal authority? The answer, Eileen Braman argues, is both. Law, Politics, and Perception brings cognitive psychology to bear on the question of the relative importance of norms of legal reasoning versus decision markers' policy preferences in legal decision-making. While Braman acknowledges that decision makers' attitudes—or, more precisely, their preference for policy outcomes—can play a significant role in judicial decisions, she also believes that decision-makers' belief that they must abide by accepted rules of legal analysis significantly limits the role of preferences in their judgements. To reconcile these competing factors, Braman posits that judges engage in "motivated reasoning," a biased process in which decision-makers are unconsciously predisposed to find legal authority that is consistent with their own preferences more convincing than those that go against them. But Braman also provides evidence that the scope of motivated reasoning is limited. Objective case facts and accepted norms of legal reasoning can often inhibit decision makers' ability to reach conclusions consistent with their preferences.

About the Author: 

Eileen Braman is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Indiana University.

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