The Situationist

About Situationism

Situationism is premised on the social scientific insight that the naïve psychology—that is, the highly simplified, affirming, and widely held model for understanding human thinking and behavior—on which our laws and institutions are based is largely wrong. Situationists (including critical realists, behavioral realists, and related neo-realists) seek first to establish a view of the human animal that is as realistic as possible before turning to legal theory or policy. To do so, situationists rely on the insights of scientific disciplines devoted to understanding how humans make sense of their world—including social psychology, social cognition, cognitive neuroscience, and related disciplines—and the practices of institutions devoted to understanding, predicting, and influencing people’s conduct—particularly market practices. Jon Hanson & David Yosifon, The Situation: An Introduction to the Situational Character, Critical Realism, Power Economics, and Deep Capture, 152 U. Pa. L. Rev. 129, 149–77 (2003).

Situationism has been applied to such topics as power economics, natural disasters, obesity, commerical speech and junk-food advertising, Supreme Court dynamics, racial injustice, affirmative action, race and rape, employment discrimination, employee adherence to workplace rules, legitimization of war, inside counsel, corporate law, and player autonomy in the National Basketball Association, among other topics.

For more on situationism, visit The Project on Law and Mind Sciences‘s website.

11 Responses to “About Situationism”

  1. […] About Situationism […]

  2. […] About Situationism […]

  3. […] “ ‘Situationism‘ is an approach that is deliberately attentive to the situation. It is informed by social science—particularly social psychology, social cognition, and related fields—and the discoveries of market actors devoted to influencing consumer behavior—marketers, public relations experts, and the like. […]

  4. […] the person.   Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. There could not be a stronger situationist statement.  The corrupt man does not corrupt the community. Rather, power corrupts the man. A bad […]

  5. […] I think makes Wilson and the Kirk such a potentially fruitful study for anthropology: the social situation.   How does Wilson do it? Why? What are the mechanisms in our social world that someone like […]

  6. […] philosophy of law, and political theory.  Take for example the successes of Situationism   at Harvard Law and the counter-balancing neurobiological considerations of Suhler and Patricia […]

  7. […] and influencing people’s conduct—particularly market practices. (from About Situationism  ; my […]

  8. […] we’re tempted to say, “If I were there, I surely would have gotten help!” But a large amount of  research in social psychology tells a different story. Had you or I been there, watching the base brutality unfold in front of […]

  9. […] (economists would say “preferences”). Instead, Hanson argues, we should look to the “situation”, both inside of us (including cognitive biases) and outside of us (family, community, social norms, […]

  10. […] first lens is a very broad one, a legal theory perspective known as “situationism,” a social science-based realist approach (not to be confused with the philosophy associated with […]

  11. […] influenced by the situation they find themselves in. ‘The situation’ is understood to be to “causally significant features around us and within us that we do not notice or believe are relevant …” Situationism gets its insights from social psychology and other areas of study. Empirically […]

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