That the legal system is broken and rife within justice is a well-worn fact, familiar to anybody who watches prime-time TV. But, what if the problem with the law isn’t merely the manner in which it is executed, but the model of human thought and action upon which it has been built? Is it possible that the law presumes too much rationality, too rigid and cognizant of a conceptual framework, out of those whom if governs? Jon Hanson, a professor at Harvard Law School and the Director of the innovative, Project on Law and Mind Sciences, thinks that they might, and in his Big Think interview today he provides some compelling reasons for why we, unpredictable and context-driven beings, may need to rethink our entire approach to enforcing order.
The law is built upon an individualistic model of human reasoning, wherein we act upon a stable, self-reflective set of preferences and principles (Hanson refers to this as the Dispositionist Actor Model). Yet, for years, the cognitive sciences have been disproving this paradigm, showing instead that humans act in erratic ways, determined more by a given situation—unconscious and non-salient forces in our immediate environment—than any firm set of explicit guiding beliefs (hence the name of a project that Hanson helped to found, situationalism.)
By remaining blind to the science of human behavior, our current legal system is perpetuating injustice, imposing a faulty sense of blame upon infractions where no motive—in the classical sense—can actually exist.
Hanson also provides a fascinating discussion of ideology, explaining why one’s relation to a set of binaries—chaos vs. order, equality vs. inequality—and the degree to which one craves closure in life, provide a nucleus for the framework from which ideological stances are made.
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It's one factor that can help explain the religiosity gap.
- Sociologists have long observed a gap between the religiosity of men and women.
- A recent study used data from several national surveys to compare religiosity, risk-taking preferences and demographic information among more than 20,000 American adolescents.
- The results suggest that risk-taking preferences might partly explain the gender differences in religiosity.
She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.
- For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
- These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
- Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
A NASA astronomer explains how astronauts dispose of their, uh, dark matter.
- When nature calls in micro-gravity, astronauts must answer. Space agencies have developed suction-based toilets – with a camera built in to ensure all the waste is contained before "flushing".
- Yes, there have been floaters in space. The early days of space exploration were a learning curve!
- Amazingly, you don't need gravity to digest food. Peristalsis, the process by which your throat and intestines squeeze themselves, actually moves food and water through your digestive system without gravity at all.
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