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The Mistaken Assumption of Intentionality in Equal Protection Law: Psychological Science and the Interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment


  • Richardson, Margaret

    (Harvard U)

  • Pittinsky, Todd L.

    (Harvard U)


In this article we explore the intersection of advances in the psychological science of intergroup attitudes and stereotypes and the law. Increasing recognition of the automatic and implicit nature of many attitudes, and their automatic influence on behavior, is making it clearer and clearer that the foundation on which Equal Protection analysis has been based is erroneous. While some legal scholars have attempted to apply the lessons from social psychology to employment discrimination, the same efforts have not been made with respect to Fourteenth Amendment and Equal Protection jurisprudence. Examining this disconnect leads to serious questions about the extent to which the current formulation of Equal Protection jurisprudence achieves its original and continuing aims of securing the equal protection of the laws for all citizens. In this article, we focus on the implications for Equal Protection jurisprudence of recent psychological science findings on prejudice and discrimination. We have chosen this focus because these implications could influence the protection of individual rights throughout society in fundamental ways.

Suggested Citation

  • Richardson, Margaret & Pittinsky, Todd L., 2005. "The Mistaken Assumption of Intentionality in Equal Protection Law: Psychological Science and the Interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment," Working Paper Series rwp05-011, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp05-011

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