Legal Reasoning

Barbara A. Spellman and Frederick Schauer

in The Oxford Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199734689
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Legal Reasoning

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The legal profession has long claimed that there are process-based differences between legal reasoning—that is, the thinking and reasoning of lawyers and judges—and the reasoning of those without legal training. Whether those claims are sound, however, is a subject of considerable debate. We describe the importance in the legal system of using categorization and analogy, following rules and authority, and the odd task of “fact finding.” We frame these topics within the debate between two views of legal reasoning: the traditional view—that when deciding a case, judges are doing something systematic and logical that only legally trained minds can do; and the Legal Realist view—that judges reason in much the same way as ordinary people do, and that they first come to conclusions and then go back to justify them with the law rather than using the law to produce their conclusions in the first place.

Keywords: legal reasoning; psychology and law; reasoning; analogy; precedent; jury decision making

Article.  14055 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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