CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Patrick & Lieberman on Provocation

Carlton Patrick and Debra Lieberman (University of Miami and University of Miami) have posted Not from a Wicked Heart: Testing the Assumptions of the Provocation Doctrine (Nevada Law Journal, Forthcoming) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
The normative logic of the provocation doctrine rests on the long-held, yet untested, assumption that anger can motivate people to act in ways which they believe are morally wrong. Here we provide a frontline inquiry into this premise in the context of the quintessential provocation scenario: a man witnessing or learning of his partner’s infidelity. Among men who had discovered a partner’s affair, anger was more strongly correlated with motivation to retaliate than with judgments as to whether such retaliation was morally acceptable. Moreover, anger explained increases in motivation beyond what could be accounted for by increases in moral judgments. However, these effects were not uniform to all behaviors: anger motivated retaliation beyond what participants thought was morally acceptable only for those acts salient to the function of anger in this context (yelling, pushing, and striking). Taken together, these results partially support the traditional assumptions of the provocation doctrine while calling other aspects of the doctrine’s normative framework into question.

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