Article Title

Authority Heuristics


This Article examines a characteristic of legal language that leads to unexpected and potentially harmful distortions of legal knowledge. It describes how authority heuristics distort knowledge about law in foreign legal systems. The concept of authority heuristics refers to assumptions about authority that are imbedded in cognition. The Article argues that where a legal professional in one system relies on authoritative language in another legal system, she is likely to apply authority heuristics from her own system and to that extent misinterpret information that she receives from the foreign system. The same language that provides valuable information when used by those within a system turns out to provide a distorted image when used by those outside the system. In general. therefore, the capacity of authoritative language to accurately convey information within a legal system tends to be inversely related to its capacity to create accurate knowledge for those outside the system. The Article analyzes how legal language creates this unexpected result, identifies some of the consequences of this previously unnoticed feature of legal language, and suggests means of reducing its potentially harmful consequences.

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