The Situationist

Posts Tagged ‘schemas’

The Situation of Mortgage Defaults

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 18, 2009

Brent White recently posted his thoughtful paper, “Underwater and Not Walking Away: Shame, Fear and the Social Management of the Housing Crisis” on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

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Despite reports that homeowners are increasingly “walking away” from their mortgages, most homeowners continue to make their payments even when they are significantly underwater. This article suggests that most homeowners choose not to strategically default as a result of two emotional forces: 1) the desire to avoid the shame and guilt of foreclosure; and 2) exaggerated anxiety over foreclosure’s perceived consequences. Moreover, these emotional constraints are actively cultivated by the government and other social control agents in order to encourage homeowners to follow social and moral norms related to the honoring of financial obligations – and to ignore market and legal norms under which strategic default might be both viable and the wisest financial decision. Norms governing homeowner behavior stand in sharp contrast to norms governing lenders, who seek to maximize profits or minimize losses irrespective of concerns of morality or social responsibility. This norm asymmetry leads to distributional inequalities in which individual homeowners shoulder a disproportionate burden from the housing collapse.

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You can download the paper for free here.  For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Barbara Ehrenreich – a Situationist,” “The Situation of Subprime Mortgage Contracts – Abstract,” “Retroactive Liability for our Financial Woes,” The Situation of Credit Card Regulation,” The Financial Squeeze: Bad Choices or Bad Situations?” “The Situation of the American Middle Class,” “Warren on the Situation of Credit,” “Are Debtors Rational Actors or Situational Characters?,” and “The Situation of College Debt” – Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.

Posted in Abstracts, Distribution, Life, Morality | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Schema Theory and Lesbian and Gay Identity – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 18, 2008

Todd Brower posted his paper, “Social Cognition ‘At Work:’ Schema Theory and Lesbian and Gay Identity in Title VII” on SSRN, where you can download it for free.  Here’s the abstract.

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Lesbians and gay men are frequent subjects for modern news, politics, and court opinions. From marriage for same-sex couples to Congressional hearings on the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” regulation, decision-makers are setting policy based on their ideas about how gay people are and how they fit into society. But what are those perceptions and how do they interact with law? We ordinarily think of lesbians and gay men as predominantly childless, urban residents of cities like San Francisco, New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles or as inhabitants of the Northeastern or Pacific Coast states. However, data from the 2000 census demonstrate that same-sex couples are located in virtually every county in each of the 50 states. Moreover, many of the states with the highest proportion of same-sex couples raising children are not those with the highest concentrations of lesbian or gay couples; rather they tend to be states in which all couples tend to have children. If these data are unexpected, our surprise is attributable to the dissonance between what we think we know about lesbians and gay men and accurate data.

This phenomenon is less puzzling than it first appears. Psychologists have demonstrated that our perceptions of the world are shaped by schemas, a set of beliefs about people, events or situations that we use as guides in our interaction with these things. Thus, we are able to treat that person or object in what we perceive to be an appropriate manner, that is, consistent with our schema.

We quickly develop models which ascribe a range of characteristics to others corresponding to their skin color, sex, other physical attributes as well as sexual orientation. We can quickly identify some major characteristics of the popular schema about gay people: (1) That lesbians and gay men exhibit “cross-gender” or gender atypical behavior, behavior traditionally associated with the opposite sex. (2) That gay identity is solely about sexual behavior and that lesbians and gay men experience sexuality and sexual activity different from heterosexuals.

This is the crux of schema theory to this article. The schema of lesbians and gay men used by some judges has prevented them from appropriately interpreting legal doctrine and precedent, and has led to anomalous results. Moreover, the relatively non-rigorous nature of schema-matching, which is a feature of both legal and non-legal reasoning, has exacerbated this tendency for inaccuracy and distorted legal doctrine where lesbians and gay men are involved.

Some of the most glaring examples have occurred under the sex discrimination prohibitions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, specifically those cases involving same-sex sexual harassment. While significant commentary exists on same-sex sexual harassment, this article differs from that commentary because it does not seek to explain or revise that doctrine through theoretical or jurisprudential constructs. Rather it uses same-sex sexual harassment as one example of how law can employ the insights of social science, particularly cognitive schema models. The article explores how social cognition theories inform and misinform judicial decisions and those of the participants in the cases.

Posted in Abstracts, Law, Legal Theory, Social Psychology, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Categorically Biased – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 3, 2008

Ron Chen and Situationist contributor Jon Hanson recently posted their article, “Categorically Biased: The Influence of Knowledge Structures on Law and Legal Theory” (77 S. Calif. L. Rev. 1103) on SSRN. Here’s the abstract.

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This Article focuses primarily on one slice of social psychology and social cognition research, namely the vast and vibrant field examining the integral role that knowledge structures play in the way we attend to, remember, and draw inferences about information we encounter and, more generally, the way we make sense of our world.

The human system of processing information is, in many cases, an efficient means of understanding our worlds and ourselves. Classification of people, objects, and other stimuli is often both indispensable and ineluctable. Still, as social psychologists have demonstrated, “virtually any of the properties of schematic functioning that are useful under some circumstances will be liabilities under others.” The categories and schemas that operate, usually automatically, influence all aspects of information processing – from what information we focus on, to how we encode that information, to which features of that information we later retrieve and remember, and to how we draw inferences and solve problems based on that information. Given the unconscious and biasing influence of our schemas, combined with the fact that our schemas themselves will often reflect our unconscious motives, we should be mindful, even distrustful, of our schemas and the conclusions that they generate. These effects, the processes that drive them, and the biases they engender are the primary subject of this Article. A central goal is to offer a broad understanding of how individuals utilize categories, schemas, and scripts to help make sense of their worlds. In doing so, we serve another main objective: to provide a comprehensive (yet manageable) synthesis of a vast body of social psychology literature. This overview shold transform how we make sense of our laws and legal-theoretic world.

Part II of this Article is devoted to describing the significance of knowledge structures. Part III briefly summarizes how legal scholars have thus far applied insights about knowledge structures and argues that their most profound implications have yet to be appreciated. Part III then provides a set of predictions regarding the influence of knowledge structures and the biases they likely engender for legal theories and laws.

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To download a copy of the paper for free, click here.

Posted in Abstracts, Deep Capture, Illusions, Law, Legal Theory, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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