The Apolitical Lawyer: Experimental Evidence of a Framing Effect


Behavioural law and economics has established a burgeoning research agenda investigating the impact of bias and heuristics on legal decision-making. One of the most important behavioural contributions concerns the impact of framing on choice. The present article expands this line of scholarship by developing a novel hypothesis under which lawyers’ attachment to objectivity and neutrality is assumed to militate against frames challenging the profession’s underlying norms. More specifically, the “apolitical hypothesis” expects the attachment of legally irrelevant political motivation to legal arguments to decrease their attractiveness. The hypothesis is tested in an experimental setting accounting for a varying degree of legal indeterminacy in the domain of European Union law. The experimental results show support for the hypothesis: a political frame made law students 12–24% more likely to select the “apolitical” legal option.

European Journal of Law and Economics