Upending the Status Quo: Cognitive Complexity in Supreme Court Justices Who Overturn Legal Precedent

Upending the Status Quo: Cognitive Complexity in Supreme Court Justices Who Overturn Legal Precedent

By
Deborah H. Gruenfeld, Jared Preston
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
2000, Vol. 26, Issue 8, Pages 1013-1022

Studies of reasoning by majority and minority members show that group members in the majority think more about the trade-offs associated with alternative decision outcomes than do group members in the minority, who are more single-minded in support of their own position. However, prior work has not examined whether this holds when decision makers change the status quo. The authors compared the integrative complexity of U.S. Supreme Court justices writing on behalf of either a majority or a minority in decisions to either uphold or overturn legal precedent. As predicted, justices writing on behalf of decisions to uphold precedent exhibited greater integrative complexity than did justices writing on behalf of decisions to overturn precedent, but this effect was stronger for the authors of majority than minority opinions.