The Legal Process from a Behavioral Perspective

By Stuart S. Nagel | Go to book overview

Introduction

T he purpose of this book is to bring together a series of studies dealing with various aspects of the legal process which were all written by a single author from a common behavioral perspective. Most of the studies included have previously appeared in diverse law and social science journals, but only by making them accessible between two covers can their integrated nature be perceived. When each study was originally being written, its role in such an integrated volume was taken into consideration. It has thus been unnecessary to do a large amount of editing in order to provide a coherent whole.

In the context of this book, a behavioral perspective toward law refers to a specific conceptual and methodological orientation. The conceptual orientation views law not as a set of rules and decisions to be read by law students, applied by lawyers, and evaluated by law professors. Instead, law is viewed mainly as the responses of lawmakers to prior stimuli, and as stimuli to the subsequent responses of law appliers and law recipients. This orientation thus involves viewing legal policies and decisions in their total context as both effects and causes.

With regard to methodology, a behavioral orientation toward law tends to emphasize the quantitative testing of generalizations about the relations between various legal phenomena and other phenomena. The quantitative testing generally involves determining (1) some hypotheses to test; (2) a sample of persons, places, or things on which to make the tests; (3) measurements for the relevant characteristics of the entities; and (4) a tabulation of the relations between the measured characteristics.

The cause-and-effect or stimulus-and-response conceptualism of the behavioral perspective can be contrasted with a more legalistic approach which tends to view legal policies and decisions mainly as objects of study in themselves. Likewise, the quantitative or scientific methodology of the behavioral perspective can be contrasted with a more verbal approach which avoids the precision of quantification. One can thus have (1) a legalistic-verbal approach, which is present in much law review writing; (2) a legalistic-quantitative approach, which is present in those works that quantify judicial votes without considering the causes or effects of decisional variations external to the, court reports in which the votes are found; (3) a causal-verbal approach, which is interested in external causes and effects such as the impact of pressure groups on Su

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