Ivar Hannikainen and others, ‘Are There Cross-Cultural Legal Principles? Modal Reasoning Uncovers Procedural Constraints on Law’

ABSTRACT
Despite pervasive variation in the content of laws, legal theorists and anthropologists have often argued that laws share certain abstract features and even speculated that law may be a human universal. In the present report, we contribute cross-cultural data to this debate: Are there cross-cultural principles of law? Participants in eleven different countries (N = 3054) were asked whether there could be laws that violate certain procedural principles (eg, laws applied retrospectively or unintelligible laws), and also whether there are any such laws – in a between-subjects design. Confirming our pre-registered prediction, people reported that such laws cannot exist, but also (paradoxically) that there are such laws. These results document cross-culturally and cross-linguistically robust beliefs about the nature of law which defy people’s conception of how legal systems function in practice.

Hannikainen, Ivar and Tobia, Kevin and Almeida, Guilherme and Donelson, Raff and Dranseika, Vilius and Kneer, Markus and Niek, Strohmaier and Bystranowski, Piotr and Dolinina, Kristina and Janik, Bartosz and Keo, Sothie and Lauraityte, Egle and Liefgreen, Alice and Próchnicki, Maciej and Rosas Martinez, Alejandro and Struchiner, Noel, Are There Cross-Cultural Legal Principles? Modal Reasoning Uncovers Procedural Constraints on Law (June 10, 2021).

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