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3 Law & Hum. Behav. 1 (1979)

handle is hein.journals/lwhmbv3 and id is 1 raw text is: Law and Human Behavior, Vol. 3, Nos. 1/2, 1979

Does the Microscope Lens Distort?
Shari Seidman Diamond*
Simulation involves the flexible imitation of processes or outcomes for the purpose
of clarifying or explaining the underlying mechanisms involved (Abelson, 1968, p.
275). It is a favorite activity of psychologists, and as legal issues have come to receive
growing attention, simulations of legal processes and institutions have multiplied.
There is, however, no consensus among researchers on the ability of simulations to
clarify behavior in legal settings. Astronauts walked on the moon because planning
research was able to study in the laboratory much of what would be encountered in
space. Yet suspicion, intuition, and some evidence suggest that social research on legal
issues may present special problems of inference. Some of these are shared with other
areas of research on human subjects, while others are probably characteristic only of
behavior in overlapping organizational systems. The articles in this special issue form
a spectrum of opinion on the present and potential values and costs of simulation
research in legal contexts. Each offers a somewhat different view of the simulation
microscope and the extent to which distortions occur in the magnified images it
We begin with a strong positive assessment of the role of simulation in research
on legal issues. Psychologist Lind and attorney Walker, using as a point of departure
their work with John Thibaut on procedural justice, focus on the development of a
theory of adversariness that is not situation- or setting-specific. They argue that
questions about whether the simulation is a close analog to operating legal structures
pose little difficulty in building and testing general theories; the key question to be
asked when evaluating such research is whether or not it provides a clear test of the
theory. At the same time, Lind and Walker are convinced that practical value will be
an outcome of their simulation efforts at theory building, because the resulting theory
will have implications for legal problems.
The second article is an examination of the results reported in Thibaut and
Walker's Procedural Justice by two attorney social scientists, Hayden and Anderson,
who do not share the Lind-Walker optimism about legal relevance. A major conclu-
sion of Procedural Justice is that the adversarial system is superior to other classes of
procedures . . . [in] both subjective and normative appraisals of its performance
(Thibaut and Walker, 1975, p. 118). Hayden and Anderson argue that by focusing on
the independent variable of distribution of control, Thibaut and Walker have con-
*Departments of Psychology and Criminal Justice, University of Illinois, Chicago Circle.
0147-7307/79/0600-0001$03.00/0 ©1980 Plenum Publishing Corporation

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