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Shopper, M. (2003). The Hidden Prejudice: Mental Disability on Trial. By Michael L. Perlin, J.D. Washington, DC: Amer. Psychological Assn., 2000. 328 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 72(4):1082-1088.

(2003). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 72(4):1082-1088

The Hidden Prejudice: Mental Disability on Trial. By Michael L. Perlin, J.D. Washington, DC: Amer. Psychological Assn., 2000. 328 pp.

Review by:
Moisy Shopper

By any measure, Michael Perlin is an authority on mental health and the law. He is on the faculty of both medical and law schools, has served in governmental and advisory agencies, and is the author of numerous law review articles and several books. In 1990, he was awarded the Walter Jeffords Writing Prize for his three- volume work on Mental Disability Law: Civil and Criminal. In 1994-1995, his book entitled The Jurisprudence of the Insanity Defense won the Manfred Guttmacher Award of the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, as the best book of the year in law and forensic psychiatry.

In The Hidden Prejudice: Mental Disability on Trial, Perlin makes a comprehensive sweep of the legal concepts impinging on the mentally disabled, convincingly demonstrating the profound and distorting effect of prejudice and irrational thinking within the law. He reminds us that the issues involved in mental disability law have implications reaching into many other areas of constitutional law, criminal law, and social policy. Yet significant decisions are often reached by what Perlin calls “vividness”: a form of erroneous reasoning that unduly relies on cases that are unusual, are dramatic, or achieve public notoriety. As a result, rational thinking is overwhelmed and replaced by the assumption that the dramatic case is typical and statistically valid for the entire group.

The author's mission is to ferret out the dual errors of sanism and pretextuality from the cognition and reasoning of lawyers, judges, legislators, and the general public, and to combat the prejudices and errors—rampant in the legal system—that so adversely influence decisions affecting the mentally disabled. Sanism refers to irrational prejudice toward the mentally ill.

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