Preference, Principle, and Political Casuistry

Eric D. Knowles, Peter H. Ditto

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


To say that someone is a person of principle is high praise; to declare that he or she is driven by personal preference is a damning critique. This chapter examines judgments of preference and principle from a social-psychological perspective, arguing that they reflect lay-psychological hypotheses concerning the causes of behavior. It is argued that judgments are rarely purely principled or purely preference-based. Rather, a hybrid or casuistic model is proposed, positing that principles (for example, general intellectual commitments) often guide judgments after having been selected to cohere with one's preferences (or affective biases) concerning the outcome. Examples of casuistic judgments are examined from the domains of life-and-death decisions, legal reasoning, and racial thinking. The chapter closes with a discussion of the normative status of casuistic judgment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationIdeology, Psychology, and Law
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199918638
ISBN (Print)9780199737512
StatePublished - May 24 2012


  • Casuistry
  • Legal reasoning
  • Normative questions
  • Preference
  • Principle
  • Racial thinking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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