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Monday, January 29, 2007

The Situationist

No, it's not the title of a recurring sketch on SNL.  The Situationist is a new blog run by a polyglot crew of academics concerned with "law and mind sciences."  Its co-creator is Jon Hanson of Harvard Law School, who has been writing extensively and at length (no exaggeration -- check out some of the articles) in this area for the past few years.  Its contributors include the psychology prof Philip Zimbardo, who is most famous for the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment.  From the blog:

Part of a larger effort, including the Project on Law and Mind Sciences at Harvard Law School (website forthcoming), this blog will provide commentary by social psychologists, law professors, policy analysts, practicing attorneys, and others connected to law and mind sciences. Our posts . . . will address current events and law and policy debates, informed by what social scientists are discovering to be the causally significant features around us and within us that we believe are irrelevant or don’t even notice in explaining human behavior, that is “the situation.”

Situationism” represents a striking contrast to the dominant conception of the human animal as a rational, or at least reasonable, preference-driven chooser, whose behavior reflects stable preferences, moderated by information processing and will, but little else. Different versions of the rational actor model have served as the basis for most laws, policies, and mainstream legal theories, at the same time that social psychology and related social scientific fields have discovered many ways in which that model is wrong.

The Situationist, then, will be a venue in which the powerful, influential, but incorrect conceptions of the human animal come up against more accurate, if surprising and unsettling, realizations about who we are and what the law is and ought to be. Its content will reflect an emerging interdisciplinary trend in legal scholarship, as exemplified by the work of scholars such as Mahzarin Banaji, Gary Blasi, Martha Chamallas, Susan Fiske, Jerry Kang, Linda Hamilton Krieger, Lee Ross, David Yosifon and many others.

I'm a big fan of Hanson's work on situationism, and look forward to hearing from him, Jerry Kang, Sung Hui Kim, and others.  Welcome. 

Posted by Paul Horwitz on January 29, 2007 at 10:48 AM in Blogging | Permalink


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