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66 Calif. L. Rev. 541 (1978)
A Theory of Procedure

handle is hein.journals/calr66 and id is 555 raw text is: A Theory of Procedure
John Thibautt
Laurens Walkert
The search for the most effective conflict resolution procedure requires
identffcation of the primary objective in resolving dfferent kinds of dis-
putes. This 4rticle focuses on the kind of disputes considered in the legal
system and draws on the results of the authors' empirical studies to de-
velop a general theory ofprocedure for attaining the objectives of truth
and ftstice in situations of cognitive conflict, conflict of interest, and in
mixed disputes.
In this Article, we propose a general theory of procedure for
resolving conflicts, with special attention to disputes dealt with in the
legal process. For a number of years we have applied the theories and
methods of social psychology in our research to examine and compare
the characteristics of various procedural systems incorporated in the
legal process.1 Until now we have published only the reports of particu-
lar projects, with occasional speculation about more general issues. But
now we have developed the body of our research sufficiently to make a
more comprehensive statement. In this Article we propose a general
framework for analyzing and classifying all conflict resolution proce-
dures, including, of course, all procedures employed in the legal proc-
The initial step in stating a theory of procedure is to recognize the
fundamental dichotomy between the potential dispute resolution objec-
tives of truth and justice. This dichotomy, we suggest, is the neces-
sary result of differences in the type of conflict involved in the dispute.
In conflicts about the most accurate view of reality, such as scientific
disputes, the objective is to determine the truth according to a standard.
We suggest that an autocratic procedure is most likely to attain this
objective. Conflicts about the apportionment of outcomes, such as in-
t Alumni Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel
* Professor of Law, University of Virginia.
The research for this Article was supported in part by National Science Foundation grants
GS 40601 and SOC 76-15767.
1. Much of this research is summarized in J. THIBAUT & L. WALKER, PROCEDURAL JUS-
TICE (1975). Later work is reported in LaTour, Houlden, Walker, & Thibaut, Procedure: Transna-
tional Perspectives and Preferences, 86 YALE L.J. 258 (1976) and in Houlden, LaTour, Walker, &
Thibaut, Preferencefor Modes ofDispute Resolution as a Function of Process and Decision Control,
14 J. EXPERIMENTAL Soc. PSYCH. 13 (1978) [hereinafter cited as Process and Decision Control].

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