Why Choose? A Response to Rachlinski, Wistrich, & Guthrie's "Heart Versus Head: Do Judges Follow the Law or Follow Their Feelings?"
Maroney, Terry A.
In "Heart Versus Head," Rachlinski, Guthrie, and Wistrich present experimental findings suggesting that judges sometimes rule on the basis of emotion rather than reason. Though there is much of value in their findings, they have presented a false choice. The experiments do offer strong evidence that judges' decisions can be influenced by the "affect heuristic," insofar as they show that prompting generalized feelings of good/bad and like/dislike can sway legal rulings that ought to be answered entirely on traditionally legalistic grounds. However, the experiments do not speak more broadly to the influence of judicial emotion, which is a far more complex phenomenon than the affect heuristic.