Areas of Expertise
- Drug Policy
- Criminal Justice
- Research Methods
- Risk Policy
After receiving a doctorate in social psychology, Rob MacCoun spent seven years as a behavioral scientist at RAND. There he was a staff member at the Institute for Civil Justice and the Drug Policy Research Center, and a core faculty member at the RAND Graduate School of Policy Studies. His research examines public policy issues from the perspective of cognitive and social psychology. He has written numerous studies of individual and group decision making, criminal and civil jury behavior, alternative dispute resolution, public perceptions of the fairness of public policies, and the formal and informal control of risky conduct (including accidental injuries, psychoactive drug use, and illicit drug dealing) in the United States and Western Europe
- Professor of Law, School of Law
GSPP Working Paper: GSPP08-010 (May 2008)
Different models of judicial decision making highlight particular goals. Traditional legal theory posits that in making decisions judges strive to reach the correct legal decision as dictated by precedent. Attitudinal and strategic models focuses on the ways in which judges further their preferred policies. The managerial model emphasizes the increasing caseload pressures that judges at all levels face. Each model accurately captures some of what every judge does some of the time, but a sophisticated understanding of judicial decision making should explicitly incorporate the notion that judges simultaneously attempt to further numerous, disparate, and often conflicting, objectives. We offer a preliminary account of a more psychologically plausible account of judicial cognition and motivation, based on principles of goal management in a constraint satisfaction network.
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Do Citizens Know Whether Their State Has Decriminalized Marijuana? A Test of the Perceptual Assumpti
GSPP Working Paper: GSPP08-011 (April 2008)
Deterrence theory proposes that legal compliance is influenced by the anticipated risk of legal sanctions. This implies that changes in law will produce corresponding changes in behavior, but the marijuana decriminalization literature finds only fragmentary support for this prediction. But few studies have directly assessed the accuracy of citizens' perceptions of legal sanctions. The heterogeneity in state statutory penalties for marijuana possession across the United States provides an opportunity to examine this issue. Using national survey data, we find that the percentages who believe they could be jailed for marijuana possession are quite similar in both states that have removed those penalties and those that have not. Our results help to clarify why statistical studies have found inconsistent support for an effect of decriminalization on marijuana possession.
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Converting Sentiments to Dollars: Scaling and Incommensurability Problems in the Evaluation of Child
GSPP Working Paper: GSPP08-013 (April 2008)
We examine how ordinary citizens translate intuitions about child welfare and distributive justice into dollar amounts for post-divorce child support payments. Our analyses indicate that child support judgments are quite sensitive to anchoring and question-wording effects. Nevertheless, we find much that is both interpretable and principled in these judgments. For example, the amounts that citizens recommended in an open-ended format ("name") were nearly identical to the amounts other citizens selected from an array of choices in a multiple choice format ("choose").
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Distinguishing Spurious and Real Peer Effects: Evidence from Artificial Societies, Small-Group Exper
GSPP Working Paper: GSPP08-012 (April 2008)
In a variety of important domains, there is considerable correlational evidence suggestive of what are variously referred to as social norm effects, contagion effects, information cascades, or peer effects. It is difficult to statistically identify whether such effects are causal, and there are various non-causal mechanisms that can produce such apparent norm effects. Lab experiments demonstrate that real peer effects occur, but also that apparent cascade or peer effects can be spurious. A curious feature of American local school configuration policy provides an opportunity to identify true peer influences among adolescents. Some school districts send 6th graders to middle school (e.g., 6th-8th grade "junior high"); others retain 6th graders for one additional year in K-6 elementary schools. Using administrative data on public school students in North Carolina, we have found that sixth grade students attending middle schools are much more likely to be cited for discipline problems than those attending elementary school, and the effects appear to persist at least through ninth grade. A plausible explanation is that these effects occur because sixth graders in middle schools are suddenly exposed to two cohorts of older, more delinquent peers.
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GSPP Working Paper: GSPP08-008 (April 2008)
Prohibition makes some drug use and drug selling a crime by statute, but licit drugs like alcohol are also associated with criminality in myriad ways. Within a prohibition regime, it is difficult but important to distinguish a drug's "intrinsic" psychopharmacological harms from the harms created or exacerbated by prohibition and its enforcement. Rather than debating the merits of legalization (see MacCoun & Reuter, 2001), we evaluate current epidemiological patterns and mainstream policy instruments within the US prohibition regime, but we go beyond the standard criterion of prevalence reduction by considering harm reduction and quantity reduction as well. We close by speculating about some emerging challenges, including the "thizzle" scene and the future of performance enhancing drugs.
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GSPP Working Paper: GSPP08-009 (July 2007)
Legal rules are often understood as setting the appropriate balance between competing claims. One might expect policymakers to identify these competing claims and employ a systematic and comprehensive analysis to assign them relative values, and to generate legal rules that follow from those values. But probably, they will not. If policy is instead set by intuitive assessments of the fair balance between competing claims, policymakers would do well to have a good understanding of the public's intuitions about these policy questions. Would a careful study of such intuitions reveal a coherent analytic framework in lay policy judgments, even if most people are unlikely to articulate their views in that way? This study examines that question in the context of child support rules. Child support awards necessarily involve tradeoffs in the allocation of finite resources among at least three private parties: the two parents, and their child or children. Using a sample of citizens called to jury service, we find that our respondents follow a predictable and rational course in their intuitive lawmaking. Their judgments in individual cases varied systematically with their views about four basic principles, suggesting that our respondents largely share a common understanding of the relevant factors that should influence decisions in particular cases, even though they differ in their judgment of the appropriate support level in many of them. Once anchored by their initial judgments, our respondents decide individual cases with considerable consistency and predictability. While gender differences conform to stereotypic expectations, the magnitude of these differences shrink when those with personal experience in the legal child support system are removed from the sample. Additional findings to be presented in future papers are also foreshadowed here.
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"Cheap talk and credibility: The consequences of confidence and accuracy on advisor credibility and persuasiveness." Sunita Sah, Don A. Moore, Robert J. MacCoun. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. Volume 121, Issue 2, July 2013, Pages 246–255.
Is it possible to increase one’s influence simply by behaving more confidently? Prior research presents two competing hypotheses: (1) the confidence heuristic holds that more confidence increases credibility, and (2) the calibration hypothesis asserts that overconfidence will backfire when others find out. Study 1 reveals that, consistent with the calibration hypothesis, while accurate advisors benefit from displaying confidence, confident but inaccurate advisors receive low credibility ratings. However, Study 2 shows that when feedback on advisor accuracy is unavailable or costly, confident advisors hold sway regardless of accuracy. People also made less effort to determine the accuracy of confident advisors; interest in buying advisor performance data decreased as the advisor’s confidence went up. These results add to our understanding of how advisor confidence, accuracy, and calibration influence others.
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MacCoun, R.J., Symposium on Vice Law and Philosophy, Criminal Law & Philosophy. Online First edition
Three public opinion studies examined public attitudes toward prevalence reduction (PR; reducing the number of people engaging in an activity) and harm reduction (HR; reducing the harm associated with an activity) across a wide variety of domains. Studies 1 and 2 were telephone surveys of California adults’ views on PR and HR strategies for a wide range of risk domains (heroin, alcoholism, tobacco, skateboarding, teen sex, illegal immigration, air pollution, and fast food). ‘‘Moral outrage’’ items (immoral, disgusting, irresponsible, dangerous) predicted preference for PR over HR, with disgust the most important predictor. In contrast, preferences were not predicted by whether the risk behavior was common, no one else’s business, or harmless. Study 3 explored whether there are domains where liberals might reject HR. A sample of liberal students preferred HR[PR for heroin, but PR[HR for ritual female circumcision; path analysis suggested that this reversal was explained by moral outrage rather than consequentialist judgments of harm to self and harm to others.
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Design Considerations for Legalizing Cannabis: Lessons Inspired by Analysis of California’s Proposition 19
Aims - No modern jurisdiction has ever legalized commercial production, distribution and possession of cannabis for recreational purposes. This paper presents insights about the effect of legalization on production costs and consumption and highlights important design choices.
Methods - Insights were uncovered through our analysis of recent legalization proposals in California. The effect on the cost of producing cannabis is largely based on existing estimates of current wholesale prices, current costs of producing cannabis and other legal agricultural goods, and the type(s) of production that will be permitted. The effect on consumption is based on production costs, regulatory regime, tax rate, price elasticity of demand, shape of the demand curve and non-price effects (e.g. change in stigma).
Results - Removing prohibitions on producing and distributing cannabis will dramatically reduce wholesale prices. The effect on consumption and tax revenues will depend on many design choices, including: the tax level, whether there is an incentive for a continued black market, whether to tax and/or regulate cannabinoid levels, whether there are allowances for home cultivation, whether advertising is restricted, and how the regulatory system is designed and adjusted.
Conclusions - The legal production costs of cannabis will be dramatically below current wholesale prices, enough so that taxes and regulation will be insufficient to raise retail price to prohibition levels. We expect legalization will increase consumption substantially, but the size of the increase is uncertain since it depends on design choices and the unknown shape of the cannabis demand curve.
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Social influence rises with the number of influence sources, but the proposed relationship varies across theories, situations, and research paradigms. To clarify this relationship, I argue that people share some sense of where the “burden of social proof” lies in situations where opinions or choices are in conflict. This suggests a family of models sharing 2 key parameters, one corresponding to the location of the influence threshold, and the other reflecting its clarity—a factor that explains why discrete “tipping points” are not observed more frequently. The plausibility and implications of this account are examined using Monte Carlo and cellular automata simulations and the relative fit of competing models across classic data sets in the conformity, group deliberation, and social diffusion literatures.
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Citizens awaiting jury service were asked a series of items, in Likert format, to determine their endorsement of various statements about principles to use in setting child support amounts. These twenty items were derived from extant child support systems, from past literature and from Ellman and Ellman’s (2008) Theory of Child Support. The twenty items were found to coalesce into four factors (principles). There were pervasive gender differences in respondent’s endorsement of the principles. More importantly, three of these four principles were systematically reflected, in very rational (if complex) ways, in the respondents’ resolution of the individual child support cases they were asked to decide. Differences among respondents in their endorsement of these three principles accounted for differences in their patterns of child support judgments. It is suggested that the pattern of coherent arbitrariness (Ariely et al., Q J Econ 118(1):73–105, 2003) in those support judgments, noted in an earlier study (Ellman, Braver, & MacCoun, 2009) is thus partially explained, in that the seeming arbitrariness of respondents’ initial support judgments reflect in part their differing views about the basic principles that should decide the cases.
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Is the Leniency Asymmetry Really Dead? Misinterpreting Asymmetry Effects in Criminal Jury Deliberation
Early jury simulation research, reviewed and meta-anyalysed by MacCoun and Kerr (1988), suggested a leniency asymmetry in criminal jury deliberations such that a given faction favoring acquittal will tend to have a greater chance of prevailing than would an equivalent sized faction favoring conviction. More recently, a handful of field studies of actual juries have reported either no such leniency asymmetry or one in the opposite direction (a severity asymmetry). A potential bias in the coding of these field studies’ data is identified, one that would tend to underestimate any leniency asymmetry. The data from three field studies are re-analyzed after correcting this purported coding bias. The results of these re-analyses show a leniency asymmetry effect, although one that is less pronounced than observed in mock jury studies. It is argued that this difference in degree (not existence) of leniency asymmetry can plausibly be attributed to greater imbalance in evidence strength in the typical actual trial relative to the typical stimulus case in simulation experiments. It is also noted that failure to observe such a leniency asymmetry effect in actual juries would raise important questions about their adherence to the reasonable doubt standard of proof.
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For decades, the debate over the merits of ending drug prohibition has carried on with little consequence. The recent near success of a cannabis legalization initiative in California suggests that citizens and politicians alike are more receptive to calls for change. We review basic research on deterrence and prices as well as emerging evidence on the potential empirical consequences of various alternatives to full prohibition, including depenalization, tolerated home cultivation, prescription regimes for cannabis and heroin, and retail sales of cannabis in Dutch coffee shops. The results are encouraging for advocates of these specific reforms, but the cases are inadequate for addressing the potentially more dramatic effects of full-scale commercial markets. The fundamental dilemma is that full legalization will probably reduce average harm per use but increase total consumption; the net effect of these two changes is difficult to project.
MacCoun, R. J. (2011). What can we learn from the Dutch cannabis coffeeshop system? Addiction, 106, 1899-1910.
Aims To examine the empirical consequences of ofﬁcially tolerated retail sales of cannabis in the Netherlands, and possible implications for the legalization debate. Methods Available Dutch data on the prevalence and patterns of use, treatment, sanctioning, prices and purity for cannabis dating back to the 1970s are compared to similar indicators in Europe and the United States. Results The available evidence suggests that the prevalence of cannabis use among Dutch citizens rose and fell as the number of coffeeshops increased and later declined, but only modestly. The coffeeshops do not appear to encourage escalation into heavier use or lengthier using careers, although treatment rates for cannabis are higher than elsewhere in Europe. Scatterplot analyses suggest that Dutch patterns of use are very typical for Europe, and that the ‘separation of markets’ may indeed have somewhat weakened the link between cannabis use and the use of cocaine or amphetamines.Conclusions Cannabis consumption in the Netherlands is lower than would be expected in an unrestricted market, perhaps because cannabis prices have remained high due to production-level prohibitions. The Dutch system serves as a nuanced alternative to both full prohibition and full legalization.
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MacCoun, R. J. (2011). How should expert judgment inform the legalization debate? In P. Cook, J. Ludwig & J. McCrary (eds.), Controlling crime: Strategies and payoffs. University of Chicago Press.
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MacCoun, R. J. (2010). The implicit rules of evidence-based drug policy, updated. Addiction, 105, 1335-1336.
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Altered State? Assessing How Marijuana Legalization in California Could Influence Marijuana Consumpt
Kilmer, B., Caulkins, J. P., Pacula, R. L., MacCoun, R. J., & Reuter, P. H. (2010). Altered state? Assessing how marijuana legalization in California could influence marijuana consumption and public budgets. (65 page peer-reviewed report.) Santa Monica, RAND.
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Do Citizens Know Whether They Live in a Decriminalization State? State Marijuana Laws and Perception
MacCoun, R., Pacula, R. L., Reuter, P., Chriqui, J., Harris, K. (2009). Do citizens know whether they live in a decriminalization state? State marijuana laws and perceptions. Review of Law & Economics, 5(1), 347-371.
Deterrence theory proposes that legal compliance is influenced by the anticipated risk of legal sanctions. This implies that changes in law will produce corresponding changes in behavior, but the marijuana decriminalization literature finds only fragmentary support for this prediction. But few studies have directly assessed the accuracy of citizens’ perceptions of legal sanctions. The heterogeneity in state statutory penalties for marijuana possession across the United States provides an opportunity to examine this issue. Using national survey data, we find that the percentages who believe they could be jailed for marijuana possession are quite similar in both states that have removed those penalties and those that have not. Our results help to clarify why statistical studies have found inconsistent support for an effect of decriminalization on marijuana possession.
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MacCoun, R. J. (2009). Harm reduction is a good label for a criterion all drug programs should meet (invited comment). Addiction, 104, 341-342.
The Benefits of Knowing What You Know (And What You Don’t): Fact-Finders Rely on Others Who Are Well
Tenney, E. R., Spellman, B. A., & MacCoun, R. J. (2008). The benefits of knowing what you know (and what you don’t): Fact-finders rely on others who are well calibrated. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
People tend to believe, and take advice from, informants who are highly confident. However, people use more than a mere ‘‘confidence heuristic.” We believe that confidence is influential because—in the absence of other information—people assume it is a valid cue to an informant’s likelihood of being correct. However, when people get evidence about an informant’s calibration (i.e., her confidence–accuracy relationship) they override reliance on confidence or accuracy alone. Two experiments in which participants choose between two opposing witnesses to a car accident show that neither confidence nor accuracy alone explains judgments of credibility; rather, whether a person is seen as credible ultimately depends on whether the person demonstrates good calibration. Credibility depends on whether sources were justified in believing what they believed.
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Cook, P., MacCoun, R. J., Muschkin, C., & Vigdor, J. (2008). The negative impacts of starting middle school in sixth grade. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 27, 104-121. This paper received the 2008 Raymond Vernon Memorial Prize from the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.
Using administrative data on public school students in North Carolina, we find that sixth grade students attending middle schools are much more likely to be cited for discipline problems than those attending elementary school. That difference remains after adjusting for the socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of the students and their schools. Furthermore, the higher infraction rates recorded by sixth graders who are placed in middle school persist at least through ninth grade. An analysis of end-of-grade test scores provides complementary findings. A plausible explanation is that sixth graders are at an especially impressionable age; in middle school, the exposure to older peers and the relative freedom from supervision have deleterious consequences. These findings are relevant to the current debate over the best school configuration for incorporating the middle grades. Based on our results, we suggest that there is a strong argument for separating sixth graders from older adolescents. © 2008 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.
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Kerr, N. L., & MacCoun, R. J. (2008). Juries and the leniency bias. In B. L. Cutler (Ed.), The Encyclopedia of Psychology and Law.
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MacCoun, R. J., & Reuter, P. (2008). The implicit rules of evidence-based drug policy: A US perspective (invited comment). International Journal of Drug Policy, 19, 231-232.
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MacCoun, R. J. (2008). Complex evidence in litigation. In B. L. Cutler (Ed.), The Encyclopedia of Psychology and Law.
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MacCoun, R. J. (2008). Bridging the gap between science and drug policy: From “what” and “how” to “whom” and “when” (invited comment). Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 31, 454-455.
The understanding of decision-making systems has come together in recent years to form a uniﬁed theory of decision-making in the mammalian brain as arising from multiple, interacting systems (a planning system, a habit system, and a situation-recognition system). This uniﬁed decision-making system has multiple potential access points through which it can be driven to make maladaptive choices, particularly choices that entail seeking of certain drugs or behaviors. We identify 10 key vulnerabilities in the system: (1) moving away from homeostasis, (2) changing allostatic set points, (3) euphorigenic “reward-like” signals, (4) overvaluation in the planning system, (5) incorrect search of situation-action-outcome relationships, (6) misclassiﬁcation of situations, (7) overvaluation in the habit system, (8) a mismatch in the balance of the two decision systems, (9) over-fast discounting processes, and (10) changed learning rates. These vulnerabilities provide a taxonomy of potential problems with decision-making systems. Although each vulnerability can drive an agent to return to the addictive choice, each vulnerability also implies a characteristic symptomology. Different drugs, different behaviors, and different individuals are likely to access different vulnerabilities. This has implications for an individual’s susceptibility to addiction and the transition to addiction, for the potential for relapse, and for the potential for treatment.
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MacCoun, R. J. (2007). Testing drugs vs. testing users: Private risk management in the shadow of the criminal law. DePaul Law Review, 56, 507-538.
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Reuter, P., & MacCoun, R. J. (2007, November/December). Invited comment on Ethan Nadelmann’s “Think again: Drugs.” Foreign Policy, pp. 4-5.
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Tenney, E. R., MacCoun, R. J., Spellman, B. A., & Hastie, R. (2007). Calibration trumps confidence as a basis for witness credibility. Psychological Science, 18, 46-50.
Confident witnesses are deemed more credible than unconfident ones, and accurate witnesses are deemed more credible than inaccurate ones. But are those effects independent? Two experiments show that errors in testimony damage the overall credibility of witnesses who were confident about the erroneous testimony more than that of witnesses who were not confident about it. Furthermore, after making an error, less confident witnesses may appear more credible than more confident ones. Our interpretation of these results is that people make inferences about source calibration when evaluating testimony and other social communication.
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MacCoun, R. J. (2006). Psychological constraints on transparency in legal and government decision making. In A. Gosseries (ed.), Symposium on publicity and accountability in governance, Swiss Political Science Review,12, 112-123.
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MacCoun, R., Kier, E., & Belkin, A. (2006). Does social cohesion determine motivation in combat? An old question with an old answer, Armed Forces and Society, 32, 646-654.
Based on a new Army War College study of unit cohesion in the Iraq War, Wong et al. argue that successful unit performance is determined by social cohesion (the strength of interpersonal bonds among members) rather than task cohesion (a sense of shared commitment to the unit’s mission). If correct, these conclusions have important implications for scholarship as well as for numerous U.S. military policies such as the Unit Manning System. However, this article disputes their contentions. Wong et al. ignore a large body of empirical research on military and nonmilitary groups showing that social cohesion has no independent impact on performance. They provide no evidence for the representativeness of the interview quotes they cite as evidence for the reliability or validity of their measures. Their methodology fails to meet social science standards for causal inference (e.g., ruling out causal rival factors).
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MacCoun, R. J. (2006). Media reporting of jury verdicts: Is the tail (of the distribution) wagging the dog?, Clifford Symposium on Tort Law, DePaul University Law Review, 55, 539-562.
MacCoun, R. J. (2006). The relativity of judgment as a challenge for behavioral law and economics (Invited Essay), Daito Bunka University Law Review, 2_ 29-39.
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MacCoun, R. J. (2006). Competing accounts of the gateway effect: The field thins, but still no clear winner. Invited commentary, Addiction, 101, 473-474.
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MacCoun, R. J. (2005). Voice, control, and belonging: The double-edged sword of procedural fairness. Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Vol. 1 .
The procedural justice literature has grown enormously since the early work of Thibaut and Walker in the 1970s. Since then, the ﬁnding that citizens care enormously about the process by which outcomes are reached—even unfavorable outcomes—has been replicated a wide range of methodologies (including panel surveys, psychometric work, and experimentation), cultures (throughout North America, Europe, and Asia), and settings (including tort litigation, policing, taxpayer compliance, support for public policies, and organizational citizenship). We have learned a great deal about the antecedents and consequences of these judgments. In particular, the work of Tom Tyler and Allan Lind and their colleagues suggests that people care about voice, dignity, and respect for relational and symbolic reasons rather than (or in addition to) instrumental reasons. This ﬁnding has benevolent implications for governance and social cooperation, but also some troubling implications, leaving people susceptible to manipulation and exploitation.
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Pacula, R. L., MacCoun, R., Reuter, P., Chriqui, J., Kilmer, B., Harris, K., Paoli, L., & Schaefer, C. (2005). What does it mean to decriminalize marijuana? A cross-national empirical examination. In B. Lindgren & M. Grossman (eds.), Substance use: Individual behaviour, social interactions, markets and politics (pp. 347-370). Elsevier/North-Holland.
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Some Well-Aged Wines for the “New Norms” Bottles: Implications of Social Psychology for Law and Econ
Feldman, Y., & MacCoun, R. J. (2005). Some well-aged wines for the “new norms” bottles: Implications of social psychology for law and economics. In Francesco Parisi and Vernon Smith (eds.), The law and economics of irrational behavior (pp.358-394). University of Chicago Press.
In the last decade, the study of social norms has become a major focus of theory and research in law and economics. Surprisingly, this "new norms" literature has almost completely ignored decades of systematic theory, experimentation, and field research on normative processes by social psychologists. We demonstrate that there are multiple mechanisms by which normative influence operates, each with its own principles and consequences. We also identify a host of situational and dispositional (individual-difference) moderators that either attenuate or amplify the effects of normative influence sources. Finally, we show that the internalization process is much less mysterious than some have suggested; it can occur through any of several well-studied processes. By taking these theoretical distinctions and moderators into account, the new norms literature will necessarily become more complex, but not necessarily chaotic or incoherent. Because these complexities are facts of social life, acknowledging them will allow the new norms theorist to improve their predictions and hence their norm-management implications.
MacCoun, R. J. (2005). Comparing legal factfinders: Real and mock, amateur and professional. Florida State University Law Review, 32, 511-518.
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Caulkins, J., & MacCoun, R. (2005). Deterring imperfectly rational actors: The case of drug enforcement (pp. 315-338). In Francesco Parisi and Vernon Smith (eds.), The law and economics of irrational behavior. University of Chicago Press.
MacCoun, R. J. (2004). Anticipating unintended consequences of vaccine-like immunotherapies for addictive drug use. In H. R. Harwood & T. G. Myers (eds.), New treatments for addiction: Behavioral, ethical, legal, and social questions. National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
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MacCoun, R. (2004). Population thinking as an adjunct to the clinical trial (invited editorial). Psychiatric Services, 55, 509-510, 515.
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Kilmer, B., & MacCoun, R. J. (2004). Public policy on addictive disorders. In R. Coombs (ed.), Addictive disorders: A practical handbook. Wiley.
MacCoun, R., Kilmer, B., & Reuter, P. (2003, September). Research on drug-crime linkages: The next generation (commissioned paper). In Toward a drugs and crime research agenda for the 21st century. National Institute of Justice Special Report.
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Robbennolt, J. K., Darley, J. M., & MacCoun, R. J. (2003). Symbolism and incommensurability in civil sanctioning: Decision-makers as goal managers. Brooklyn Law Review, 68, 1121-1158.
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MacCoun, R. J. (2003). Is the addiction concept useful for drug policy? In R. Vuchinich & N. Heather (eds.), Choice, behavioural economics and addiction. Oxford UK: Elsevier Science.
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MacCoun, R. (2003, 11 June). O cannabis! Pot decriminalization in Canada highlights America's isolation. San Francisco Chronicle, A27.
MacCoun, R. J. (2003). Comments on Chaloupka, Emery, and Laing. In R. Vuchinich & N. Heather (eds.), Choice, behavioural economics and addiction. Oxford UK: Elsevier Science.
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Caulkins, J., & MacCoun, R. (2003). Limited rationality and the limits of supply reduction. Journal of Drug Issues, 33, 433-464.
Drug markets have been targeted for increasingly tough enforcement yet retail prices for cocaine and heroin fell by 70-80%. No research has explained adequately why prices have fallen. This paper explores the possibility that part of the explanation may lie in the failure of drug dealers to respond to risks the way the simplest rational actor models might predict.
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Reuter, P., & MacCoun, R. (2002). Heroin maintenance: Is a U.S. experiment needed? In D. Musto (ed.), One hundred years of heroin (pp. 159-180). Westport CT: Greenwood.
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MacCoun, R. (2002). Comparing micro and macro rationality. In M. V. Rajeev Gowda and Jeffrey Fox (Eds.), Judgments, decisions, and public policy. New York: Cambridge University Press.
MacCoun, R., & Reuter, P. (eds.) (2002). The varieties of drug control at the dawn of the 21st century. Special issue of the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 582, July.
The world now has a century of experience with refined cocaine and heroin and has observed their consequences. For most of that century, as many citizens in the industrialized nations experimented with those drugs, their governments experimented with various forms of legal prohibition. A few countries—most notably the Netherlands, Great Britain, and Switzerland—have been willing to test a wide range of control strategies. Most others—including the United States—have generally tinkered at the margins of a narrow criminal justice model, perhaps augmented with minimal provision of public drug treatment.
Some foreign experiences have long been a staple of the American drug debate—most notably the British experience with prescription heroin in the mid-twentieth century and Dutch de facto cannabis legalization since the late 1970s.In the absence of careful scholarly description,U.S.observers have been free to characterize such experiences in whichever way serves their rhetorical purposes. For example, a rapid increase in the minimal base rate of heroin use in Britain in the late 1960s became the basis for a charge that the British system of heroin prescription had failed; we discuss below a more reasonable interpretation of this experience.
Only recently have scholars,policy analysts,and policy makers from different nations begun to look outside their own boundaries to see what might be learned from experiences abroad (e.g., Estievenart 1995; MacCoun and Reuter 2001a, 2001b; Reuband 1995).
This special issue describes the experiences of eleven nations: Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Iran, Jamaica, Mexico, Portugal, Russia, and Sweden. Each of these countries is confronting the various public health and public safety problems caused both by domestic drug consumption and by the legal prohibition of these substances. Some countries confront a second drug problem as well, one that can dwarf the first: they are home to major drug trafficking organizations. And several of these countries must contend with the direct and indirect effects of an aggressive U.S. campaign to stem the flow of drugs.
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MacCoun, R., & Reuter, P. (2001). Drug war heresies: Learning from other vices, times, and places. Cambridge University Press. [Fifteen-chapter book]
MacCoun, R. (2001). Public opinion about legal issues. International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences.
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MacCoun, R., & Reuter, P. (2001). Evaluating alternative cannabis regimes. British Journal of Psychiatry, 178, 123-128.
BACKGROUND: Cannabis policy continues to be controversial in North America, Europe and Australia.
AIMS: To inform this debate, we examine alternative legal regimes for controlling cannabis availability and use.
METHOD: We review evidence on the effects of cannabis depenalisation in the USA, Australia and The Netherlands. We update and extend our previous (MacCoun & Reuter, 1997) empirical comparison of cannabis prevalence statistics in the USA, The Netherlands and other European nations.
RESULTS: The available evidence indicates that depenalisation of the possession of small quantities of cannabis does not increase cannabis prevalence. The Dutch experience suggests that commercial promotion and sales may significantly increase cannabis prevalence.
CONCLUSIONS: Alternatives to an aggressively enforced cannabis prohibition are feasible and merit serious consideration. A model of depenalised possession and personal cultivation has many of the advantages of outright legalisation with few of its risks.
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MacCoun, R. J. (2000). The costs and benefits of letting juries punish corporations: Comment on Viscusi. Stanford Law Review, 52, 1821-1828.
Vidmar, N., Lempert, R. O., Diamond, S. S., Hans, V. P., Landsman, S., MacCoun, R., Sanders, J., Hosch, H. M., Kassin, S., Galanter, M., Eisenberg, T., Daniels, S., Greene, E., Martin, J., Penrod, S., Richardson, J., Heuer, L., & Horowitz, I. (2000). Amicus brief: Kumho Tire v. Carmichael. Law & Human Behavior, 24, 387-400.