Where do our intuitions about wrongdoing come from? In this paper, we critique punishment naturalism -- the notion that such intuitions are independent of culture. By way of contrast we describe an alternative approach, punishment realism, that develops the core insights of legal realism via psychology and anthropology. Punishment realism, we argue, offers a more complete account of agreement and disagreement over the criminal law and provides a more detailed and credible account of the social and cognitive mechanisms that move people to either agree or disagree with one another on whether and how much praise or punishment a given act deserves. The differences between these two empirical accounts also entail contrasting implications for how those interested in maximizing social welfare and public satisfaction with the law should approach questions of crime and punishment.
Entries in criminal law (8)
How the law defines rape, a CCP study finds, matters much less than decisionmakers' cultural predispositions, which shape their perceptions of consent and other facts in "date rape" cases (forthcoming, University of Pennsylvania Law Review).
Oupatient commitment laws (OCLs) are highly controversial provisions that permit courts to order persons who are mentally ill to comply with specified outpatient-treatment regimens or face involuntary confinement. A CCP study, forthcoming in Law and Human Behavior , found that political conflict over OCLs reflects the influence of cultural values on citizens' perceptions of the impact of these laws on public health and safety.
An experimental study conducted by the Cultural Cognition Project identifies how individuals' values shape their views of the facts in cases involving battered women and other persons whose resort to lethal self-defense provokes public controversy (published in the American Criminal Law Review).
Can the emergence of scientific consensus be expected to quiet disagreement about the efficacy of gun control laws? Not necessarily. This paper shows why, using computer simulations of knowledge transmission that incorporate the phenomenon of cultural cognition.