Coordination and expertise foster legal textualism

Ivar R. Hannikainen (Coresponding Author), Kevin P. Tobia, Guilherme da F.C.F. de Almeida, Noel Struchiner, Markus Kneer, Piotr Bystranowski, Vilius Dranseika, Niek Strohmaier, Samantha Bensinger, Kristina Dolinina, Bartosz Janik, Eglė Lauraitytė, Michael Laakasuo, Alice Liefgreen, Ivars Neiders, Maciej Próchnicki, Alejandro Rosas, Jukka Sundvall, Tomasz Żuradzki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


A cross-cultural survey experiment revealed a dominant tendency to rely on a rule's letter over its spirit when deciding which behaviors violate the rule. This tendency varied markedly across (k = 15) countries, owing to variation in the impact of moral appraisals on judgments of rule violation. Compared with laypeople, legal experts were more inclined to disregard their moral evaluations of the acts altogether and consequently exhibited stronger textualist tendencies. Finally, we evaluated a plausible mechanism for the emergence of textualism: in a two-player coordination game, incentives to coordinate in the absence of communication reinforced participants' adherence to rules' literal meaning. Together, these studies (total n = 5,794) help clarify the origins and allure of textualism, especially in the law. Within heterogeneous communities in which members diverge in their moral appraisals involving a rule's purpose, the rule's literal meaning provides a clear focal point-an identifiable point of agreement enabling coordinated interpretation among citizens, lawmakers, and judges.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2206531119
Pages (from-to)e2206531119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number44
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2022


  • coordination
  • cross-cultural research
  • legal decision making
  • moral judgment

Field of Science*

  • 5.1 Psychology
  • 5.5 Law

Publication Type*

  • 1.1. Scientific article indexed in Web of Science and/or Scopus database


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