Professor Salil Mehra is professor of law at Temple University. His research focuses on antitrust/competition law and technology, particularly in comparative perspective with Japan. He has published a number of articles, in journals including the Minnesota Law Review, the Emory Law Journal, and the American Journal of Comparative Law. Professor Mehra is a past Chair of the AALS Section on Antitrust and Economic Regulation, and is a nongovernmental advisor to the International Competition Network. He is a former Abe Fellow of Japan’s Center for Global Partnership and the Social Science Research Center.
The central focus of my research is the relationship of observed psychological differences between Westerners and Japanese to legal issues. In the past few years, researchers in a branch of psychology called “cultural cognition” have been conducting experiments that have confirmed different cognitive approaches in East Asians and Westerners. The dominant theory is that a kind of “cultural evolution” affects cognitive processes. That is, culture produces hard-wired differences in how people evaluate facts. My goal is to study the relationship of cultural cognition theory to the function and design of legal systems. Specifically, I would like to test how experimental subjects in Japan react differently to typical factual scenarios. For these scenarios, I plan to use fact patterns taken from actual legal cases. I will give one example of the kind of relationship I am testing. The cultural cognition psyhchologists (e.g., Profs. Cohen, Kitayama, Nesbitt, etc.) have demonstrated a difference in how often Japanese commit what is called the “fundamental attribution error” relative to Americans. The fundamental attribution error is the tendency to attribute an individual’s action to his or her choice rather than his or her situation. The cultural cognition scholars have shown that Japanese subjects are less likely to mistakenly attribute individual action to individual choice rather than context. As one example, I would like to test how this relates to lay people’s understanding of causation in tort cases. That is, whether Japanese and Americans differ in how they think a tort is caused. Obviously, this has less direct impact in Japan, which lacks civil juries. However, this is an example of how cultural cognition could be important in understanding how legal systems, and indeed, individual percepts might diverge.