What's Law Got to Do with It? What Judges Do, Why They Do It, and What's at Stake

By Charles Gardner Geyh | Go to book overview

5
Path Dependence in Studies of
Legal Decision-making

Eileen Braman

J. Mitchell Pickerill

JUDGES, LAW PROFESSORS, and yes, even political scientists are creatures of their training and professional socialization. Although we all come to the table with unique concerns, perspectives, and insights about legal decision-making, those views are inevitably shaped by how we first come to understand the endeavor and the assumptions of relevant colleagues with whom we interact each day. In this chapter we explore and attempt to understand path dependent influences on scholarly thinking about legal decisionmaking. Acknowledging that we are at a critical juncture in promoting understandings of legal reasoning that take into account the concerns of scholars from multiple perspectives, we ask and try to answer several important questions: How does what we “know” about legal decision-making shape current research? To what extent do the distinct trajectories of research in different disciplines, particularly law and political science, facilitate or hinder interdisciplinary exchange? How might the methods used by our disciplinary predecessors shape and confine our thinking?

We undergo this task because we believe that greater attention to the assumptions, approaches, and findings of researchers across disciplines is a positive development that has significant potential to improve our understanding of the factors influencing legal outcomes and the normative implications of such knowledge. This sort of interdisciplinary exchange is bound to fail, however, if legal and behavioral scholars do not come to the table in the spirit of mutual respect with a sincere openness and appreciation for what they have

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