Generalization in Legal Argumentation

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Generalization in Legal Argumentation. / Zenker, Frank; Dahlman, Christian; Sikström, Sverker; Wahlberg, Lena; Sarwar, Farhan.

In: Journal of Forensic Psychology Research and Practice, Vol. 20, No. 1, 2020, p. 80-99.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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TY - JOUR

T1 - Generalization in Legal Argumentation

AU - Zenker, Frank

AU - Dahlman, Christian

AU - Sikström, Sverker

AU - Wahlberg, Lena

AU - Sarwar, Farhan

PY - 2020

Y1 - 2020

N2 - When interpreting a natural language argument that generalizes over a contextually relevant category, audiences are likely to activate the category prototype and transfer its characteristics onto category instances. A generalized argument can thus appear more (respectively less) persuasive than one mentioning a specific category instance, provided the argument’s claim is more (less) warranted for the prototype than for the instance (positive and negative prototype effect). To investigate this effect in legal contexts using mock-scenarios, professional and lay judges at Swedish courts evaluated the persuasiveness of arguments giving a generalized or a specific description of an eyewitness. The generalized version described the witness either as an alcohol-intoxicated person or as a child, while the specific version varied both the amount of alcohol consumed (two vs. five glasses of wine) and the child’s age (four vs. 12 years). To investigate the effect of legal expertise on argument selection, moreover, law and social science students evaluate the persuasiveness of both argument versions. Though we observed statistically significant prototype effects as well as expertise effects, results were mixed and sometimes ran counter to normative expectation.

AB - When interpreting a natural language argument that generalizes over a contextually relevant category, audiences are likely to activate the category prototype and transfer its characteristics onto category instances. A generalized argument can thus appear more (respectively less) persuasive than one mentioning a specific category instance, provided the argument’s claim is more (less) warranted for the prototype than for the instance (positive and negative prototype effect). To investigate this effect in legal contexts using mock-scenarios, professional and lay judges at Swedish courts evaluated the persuasiveness of arguments giving a generalized or a specific description of an eyewitness. The generalized version described the witness either as an alcohol-intoxicated person or as a child, while the specific version varied both the amount of alcohol consumed (two vs. five glasses of wine) and the child’s age (four vs. 12 years). To investigate the effect of legal expertise on argument selection, moreover, law and social science students evaluate the persuasiveness of both argument versions. Though we observed statistically significant prototype effects as well as expertise effects, results were mixed and sometimes ran counter to normative expectation.

KW - Argumentation

KW - decision-making

KW - evidence

KW - expertise effect

KW - generalization

KW - lay judge

KW - legal context

KW - persuasiveness

KW - professional judge

KW - prototype effect

U2 - 10.1080/24732850.2019.1689782

DO - 10.1080/24732850.2019.1689782

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:85075120122

VL - 20

SP - 80

EP - 99

JO - Journal of Forensic Psychology Research and Practice

JF - Journal of Forensic Psychology Research and Practice

SN - 2473-2850

IS - 1

ER -