Special thanks to Stephanie Maruska, Gregory A. Caldeira, Lawrence Baum, Kathleen McGraw, Elliot Slotnick, Chuck Taber, Rick Lau, Kevin Scott, Peter Shane, L. Camille Herbert, and the editor and anonymous reviewers at AJPS for their invaluable comments at various stages of this project. Also thanks to the participants in the Research in American Politics series at The Ohio State University. This research was enabled by the assistance of the Interdisciplinary Center for Law and Policy Studies at the Moritz College of Law and funding from the Alumni Grants for Graduate Research and Scholarship Committee at The Ohio State University.
Mechanism of Motivated Reasoning? Analogical Perception in Discrimination Disputes
Version of Record online: 2 OCT 2007
American Journal of Political Science
Volume 51, Issue 4, pages 940–956, October 2007
How to Cite
Braman, E. and Nelson, T. E. (2007), Mechanism of Motivated Reasoning? Analogical Perception in Discrimination Disputes. American Journal of Political Science, 51: 940–956. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5907.2007.00290.x
- Issue online: 2 OCT 2007
- Version of Record online: 2 OCT 2007
This article examines the boundaries of motivated reasoning in legal decision making. We propose a model of attitudinal influence involving analogical perception. Attitudes influence judgments by affecting the perceived similarity between a target case and cases cited as precedent. Bias should be most apparent in judging similarity when cases are moderately similar on objective dimensions. We conducted two experiments: the first with undergraduates, the second with undergraduates and law students. Participants in each experiment read a mock newspaper article that described a “target case” involving unlawful discrimination. Embedded in the article was a description of a “source case” cited as legal precedent. Participants in both studies were more likely to find source cases with outcomes that supported their policy views in the target dispute as analogous to that litigation. Commensurate with our theory, there was evidence in both experiments that motivated perceptions were most apparent where cases were moderately similar on objective dimensions. Although there were differences in the way lay and law student participants viewed cases, legal training did not appear to attenuate motivated perceptions.