Four Reasons to Teach Psychology to Legal Writing Students, by Lawrence M. Solan, Social Science Research Notebook (with hat tip to Legal Skills Prof Blog)
Over the past quarter century we have learned a great deal about psychological biases that are by-products of the strategies we use in everyday reasoning. This essay invites educators to introduce some basic facts about these biases to students in legal writing courses. By teaching students to understand the psychological phenomena that underlie some of the core strategies of good legal writing, legal writing instructors may help students to internalize more of what they learn in legal writing classes. This will make it more likely that they will be able to transfer the skills to tasks performed in their legal careers.
While a number of psychological biases are relevant to good legal writing, the essay describes four: the preference for simple writing; the confirmation bias (causing us to ignore evidence that contradicts positions we have taken); the correspondence bias (overemphasizing character and undervaluing context in explaining an individual’s conduct); and the bias blind spot (thinking we ourselves are less susceptible to these biases than are people in general). The essay suggests ways to introduce each of these psychological phenomena into the legal writing course in ways that should enhance the student’s sensitivity to these important issues, and not take up too much class time.