Emotions and Culpability: How the Law is at Odds With Psychology, Jurors, and Itself

Pages: 312
Item #: 4316078
ISBN: 978-1-59147-416-6
List Price: $19.95
Member/Affiliate Price: $19.95
Copyright: 2006
Format: Hardcover
Availability: In Stock
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For individuals in the U.S. & U.S. territories


This book investigates why, when, and how ordinary human beings hold some individuals guilty of crimes, but others less so or not at all. Why, for example, do the emotions of the accused sometimes aggravate a murder, making it a heinous crime, whereas other emotions might mitigate that murder to manslaughter, excuse a killing ("by reason of insanity"), or even justify it ("by reason of self-defense")? And what emotions on the part of jurors come into play as they arrive at their decisions?

The authors argue persuasively that U.S. law is out of touch with the way that jurors' "commonsense justice" works and the way they judge culpability. This disconnect has resulted in some inconsistent verdicts across different types of cases and thus has serious implications for whether the law will be respected and obeyed.

Problems arise because criminal law has no unified theory of emotion and culpability, and legal scholars often seem to misunderstand or ignore what psychologists know about emotion. The authors skillfully show that the law's culpability theories are (and must be) psychological at heart, and they propose ways in which psychology can help inform and support the law.

Table of Contents


I. Defining the Ground and Providing a Psychological Context for the Emotions

  1. When the Law's Story of Emotion and Culpability Is at Odds With Human Nature
  2. Within a Normative Law, Can Psychology's Place Still Be Defended?
  3. Emotions in Folk Psychology
  4. Emotions in Academic Psychology: Implications for Culpability and the Law
  5. Emotions in Context: Time, Function, and Type

II. Analyses and Comparisons of the Law's Emotion and Culpability Theories

  1. Anomalies in Murder: Conflicting Views of Malice, Emotions, and Motive
  2. Manslaughter's Failing Theories of Mitigation: Emotions Bound by Objective Rules, or an Unrestrained Subjectivity?
  3. Insanity I: The Prototypic, Yet Problematic, Excusing Condition
  4. Insanity II: Its Disconnect, "Defect of Reason," and Incapacity
  5. Where Self-Defense's Justification Blurs Into Excuse: A Defensible Theory, with Fitting Verdicts, for Mistaken Self-Defense

III. Concluding Thoughts: Psychology's Informing Function

  1. Moving the Law Toward a Coherent Emotion and Culpability Story
  2. A Reformulation, and Concluding Recommendations


Table of Authorities

Author Index

Subject Index

About the Authors

Author Bios

Norman J. Finkel, PhD, is a professor of psychology at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. He received his PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Rochester in 1971 and has been at Georgetown ever since, where he recently received the Dean's Award for Teaching Excellence (2005–2006). His scholarly interests are in the area of psychology, public policy, and law, looking at ordinary citizens' (jurors') views of justice, fairness, rights, and duties, what he calls "commonsense justice," and how these views compare and contrast with black-letter law. His empirical work has focused on such areas as insanity, infanticide, self-defense, capital felony-murder, the juvenile death penalty, manslaughter, and rights and duties—areas and issues at the empirical–normative nexus. His books include Insanity on Trial (1988), Commonsense Justice: Jurors' Notions of the Law (1995), and Not Fair! The Typology of Commonsense Unfairness (American Psychological Association, 2001), and he has recently published an edited volume (with Fathali Moghaddam), The Psychology of Rights and Duties: Empirical Contributions and Normative Commentaries (American Psychological Association, 2005). He is a coeditor of Law and Public Policy: Psychology and the Social Sciences, a book series published by the American Psychological Association.

W. Gerrod Parrott, PhD, is a professor of psychology at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. He received his doctorate in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1985. After 2 years of postdoctoral research at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, he joined the faculty at Georgetown. His scholarly interest is in the nature of human emotion, especially emotion's social foundations, functions, and dysfunctions. These interests have led to research focusing on envy, jealousy, shame, embarrassment, and guilt as well as research on the influence of emotion and emotional self-regulation on thought. He is the author of more than 60 scholarly articles and is editor of two books: Emotions in Social Psychology: Essential Readings (2001) and, with Rom Harré, The Emotions: Social, Cultural and Biological Dimensions (1996). He served as editor of the journal Cognition and Emotion from 1995 through 1999.