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Coordination and expertise foster legal textualism


Hannikainen, Ivar R; Tobia, Kevin P; de Almeida, Guilherme da F C F; Struchiner, N; Kneer, Markus; Bystranowski, P; Dranseika, V; Strohmaier, N; Bensinger, S; Dolinina, K; Janik, B; Lauraityte, Egle; Laakasuo, M; Liefgreen, A; Neiders, I; Prochnicki, M; Rosas, A; Sundvall, J; Zuradzki, Tomasz (2022). Coordination and expertise foster legal textualism. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 119(44):e2206531119.

Abstract

A cross-cultural survey experiment revealed a dominant tendency to rely on a rule’s letter over its spirit when deciding which behaviors violate the rule. This tendency varied markedly across (k = 15) countries, owing to variation in the impact of moral appraisals on judgments of rule violation. Compared with laypeople, legal experts were more inclined to disregard their moral evaluations of the acts altogether and consequently exhibited stronger textualist tendencies. Finally, we evaluated a plausible mechanism for the emergence of textualism: in a two-player coordination game, incentives to coordinate in the absence of communication reinforced participants’ adherence to rules’ literal meaning. Together, these studies (total n = 5,794) help clarify the origins and allure of textualism, especially in the law. Within heterogeneous communities in which members diverge in their moral appraisals involving a rule’s purpose, the rule’s literal meaning provides a clear focal point—an identifiable point of agreement enabling coordinated interpretation among citizens, lawmakers, and judges.

Abstract

A cross-cultural survey experiment revealed a dominant tendency to rely on a rule’s letter over its spirit when deciding which behaviors violate the rule. This tendency varied markedly across (k = 15) countries, owing to variation in the impact of moral appraisals on judgments of rule violation. Compared with laypeople, legal experts were more inclined to disregard their moral evaluations of the acts altogether and consequently exhibited stronger textualist tendencies. Finally, we evaluated a plausible mechanism for the emergence of textualism: in a two-player coordination game, incentives to coordinate in the absence of communication reinforced participants’ adherence to rules’ literal meaning. Together, these studies (total n = 5,794) help clarify the origins and allure of textualism, especially in the law. Within heterogeneous communities in which members diverge in their moral appraisals involving a rule’s purpose, the rule’s literal meaning provides a clear focal point—an identifiable point of agreement enabling coordinated interpretation among citizens, lawmakers, and judges.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:01 Faculty of Theology and the Study of Religion > Center for Ethics
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Philosophy
Dewey Decimal Classification:170 Ethics
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Multidisciplinary
Language:English
Date:25 October 2022
Deposited On:14 Jan 2023 17:28
Last Modified:29 May 2024 01:40
Publisher:National Academy of Sciences
ISSN:0027-8424
OA Status:Closed
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2206531119
Official URL:https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2206531119
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