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Emotion in the Law and the Lab: The Case of Graphic Cigarette Warnings

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Objective: The decision in RJ Reynolds v FDA (2012) to invalidate the FDA's proposed graphic health warnings was based in part on the reasoning that the proposed graphic warnings cued emotional responses, and therefore, could not be considered “factual.” However, this reasoning demonstrated the courts' fundamental misunderstanding of current behavioral science research. Methods: In contrast to the courts' artificial separation of emotions from fact, we synthesize and interpret relevant research in basic decision sciences and describe an evidence-based characterization of how emotions influence consumer decision-making through multiple mechanisms. We then explore how behavioral research gets “lost in translation” in the legal process. Results: We recommend ways that behavioral scientists can work with attorneys to interpret behavioral research effectively to benefit the legal process. For science-based tobacco regulation to survive legal challenges from the tobacco industry, courts must have access to, and be able to understand and apply the relevant research. Accordingly, behavioral laboratory researchers must consider the courts as an additional audience when designing research and reporting results. Conclusion: Researchers seeking to influence policy should work closely with public health lawyers to have the greatest impact on the legal system.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2016

More about this publication?
  • Tobacco Regulatory Science (Electronic ISSN 2333-9748) is a rigorously peer-reviewed online scientific journal for the dissemination of research relevant to the regulation of tobacco products. The journal content includes a broad array of research domains, including chemistry, biology, behavior, community, and population-level surveillance and epidemiology, as well as knowledge syntheses (eg, meta-analyses or state-of-the-art reviews) and analytic modeling. All articles describe the policy relevance of the research outcomes. Given the global nature of tobacco regulation, particularly as a result of international and national policies, Tobacco Regulatory Science publishes high quality research that is relevant to global regulatory needs and requirements. Tobacco Regulatory Science is published electronically 6 times per year.
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