William O. Douglas joined the US Supreme Court in 1939 and served until 1975. Soon after joining the Court, the then Chief Justice, Charles Evans Hughes, told Douglas that almost all judicial decisions on the high court are emotional decisions. That is, Supreme Court justices come to a fairly quick emotional decision about a case and then spend time seeking out legal reasoning to justify that decision.
Douglas was initially skeptical this was true, but after several years on the Court he concluded that Chief Justice Hughes was correct. The overwhelming majority of Supreme Court decisions started as emotional decisions.
While some might want to imagine decisions at the heart of our justice system are purely the result of cold, rational legal analysis, there is nothing unusual in how Supreme Court justices arrive at their decisions. They’re just being human. We now have several decades of psychological research showing that most of our decisions start as emotional decisions and that we use reasoning after the fact to justify these decisions.
This psychological truism, that most decision-making is emotionally driven, has great relevance for us in the educational choice movement. We are engaged in an intense political and public relations struggle and we need to better understand the psychology of judgement, decision-making and persuasion if we are to prevail. Hence, my recommendation that all education choice advocates read The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Continue Reading →