November 12, 2011
Some More Legal Payoffs to Emotions including Happiness
Posted by Peter Huang

I highlight some additional benefits to lawyers from paying attention to and learning more about emotions by recommending these five items to read.

First, the weekly faculty colloquium here yesterday was an intriguing talk by University of Wyoming College of Law Professor Michael R. Smith, who presented his work-in-progress titled, The Sociological and Cognitive Dimensions of Policy-Based Persuasion. Here is his summary of it:

Arguments based on public policy are critical to legal advocates, especially when they are arguing to a court on an issue of first impression.  Interestingly, however, very little serious literature has been produced about the nature of policy arguments and how legal advocates can use them to best effect. This presentation, based on a work-in-progress, will explore the nature of policy-based persuasion in terms of sociology theory and cognitive psychology theory.  Based on principles borrowed from these disciplines, the presentation will identify different types of policy arguments and will explore strategies for maximizing the persuasive impact of policy arguments in legal advocacy. 

One of his main points was the difference between emotional narratives versus emotional policy arguments. For more related work, see his thoughtful book Advanced Legal Writing: Theories and Strategies in Persuasive Writing:

414Q4m+GrJL._SL500_AA300_ Unknown

Second, see this article by Jules Lobel and George Loewenstein titled, Emote Control: The Substitution of Symbol for Substance in Foreign Policy and International Law. As they describe their article in this abstract:

Historical perspectives, as well as recent work in psychology, converge on the conclusion that human behavior is the product of two or more qualitatively different neural processes that operate according to different principles and often clash with one another. We describe a specific 'dual process' perspective that distinguishes between deliberative and emote control of behavior. We use this framework to shed light on a wide range of legal issues involving foreign policy, terrorism, and international law that are difficult to make sense of in terms of the traditional rational choice perspective. We argue that in these areas, the powerful influence of emotions not only on the general public, but on politicians and judicial decision makers, leads to a substitution of symbol for substance that can be seen at two different levels: (1) in the types of situations and stimuli that drive people to action (namely vivid symbols rather than rational arguments), and (2) in the types of actions that people take - specifically symbolic actions that are superficially satisfying as opposed to more substantive actions that are less immediately satisfying but actually more likely to produce desired long-term results.

Lobel_jules_profile1 Images

Third, see this article by Deborah A. Small and Jennifer Lerner titled, Emotional Policy: Personal Sadness and Anger Shape Judgments about a Welfare Case. Here is their abstract of their article:

When making decisions about a welfare case, it is reasonable for one’s thoughts and feelings about the potential welfare recipient to influence the decision. It is less reasonable for one’s “incidental” feelings (e.g., sadness or anger arising from an event in one’s personal life) to influence such decisions. In two studies, however, data reveal that incidental anger and sadness do in fact carry over, shaping welfare policy preferences. Study 1 found that incidental anger decreased the amount of welfare assistance participants recommended providing relative to neutral emotion, whereas sadness increased the amount recommended. Study 2 replicated the results and found that limiting participants’ cognitive resources eliminated the difference between sadness and anger, thus implying that differences in depth-of-thought drove the effects. In sum, the results reveal ways in which: (a) personal emotions carry over to shape preferences for public policies, (b) emotions of the same valence have opposing effects, and (c) differential depth-of-cognitive-processing contributes to such effects.

Small_deborah Jennifer-lerner-on-emotion-judgment-and-public-policy_ksgarticlefeature

Fourth, check out an article by Todd D. Peterson and Elizabeth Waters Peterson titled Stemming the Tide of Law Student Depression: What Law Schools Need to Learn from the Science of Positive Psychology explains how to effectively inoculate law students from learned depression by helping them utilize their signature character strengths.


Fifth, there is no better definitive single book about why happiness matters to law students, lawyers, and law firms than one by Nancy Levit and Douglas O. Linder titled The Happy Lawyer: Making a Good Life in the Law.

6a00d8345157d569e2015436d3c657970c-800wi 6a00d8345157d569e20162fc559164970d-800wi


Books, Law & Economics | Bookmark

TrackBacks (0)

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Links to weblogs that reference Some More Legal Payoffs to Emotions including Happiness:

Recent Comments
Popular Threads
Search The Glom
The Glom on Twitter
Archives by Topic
Archives by Date
January 2019
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    
Miscellaneous Links