Barbara O’Brien and Daphna Oyserman recently posted a draft of their paper, “It’s Not Just What You Think But Also How You Think About it: The Effect of Situationally Primed Mindsets on Legal Judgments and Decision Making” (forthcoming in 92 Marquette L. Rev. (2008)) on SSRN. Here’s the abstract.
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Lawyers intuitively understand that individual differences matter for legal judgments and decision making, and that calling forth certain concepts can affect how people interpret and judge evidence. But they generally overlook the influence of mindset on those very same judgments–that is, they fail to consider how situational cues can prime a way of making sense of the world that affects how people perceive evidence and receive arguments. We present two studies demonstrating the effect of priming a particular type of mindset–a focus on either achieving success or avoiding failure–on attitudes about criminal justice policy and willingness to take action based on limited evidence in a criminal case. We then discuss other mindsets that are potentially relevant to legal judgments and decision making, offering hypotheses about their likely effects and highlighting the need for further empirical research.