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The common law determines whether a publication is defamatory by considering how 'ordinary reasonable people' would respond to it. But how does the law work in practice? Who are these 'ordinary reasonable people' and what do they think? This book examines the psychology behind how judges, juries and lawyers decide what is defamatory. Drawing on a thorough examination of case law, as well as extensive empirical research, including surveys involving over 4,000 members of the general public, interviews with judges and legal practitioners and focus groups representing various sections of the community, this book concludes that the law reflects fundamental misperceptions about what people think and how they are influenced by the media. The result is that the law tends to operate so as to unfairly disadvantage publishers, thus contributing to defamation law's infamous 'chilling effect' on free speech. This unique and controversial book will appeal to judges, defamation law practitioners and scholars in various common law jurisdictions, media outlets, academics engaged in researching and teaching torts and media law, as well as those working within the disciplines of media or communications studies and psychology. Anyone concerned with the law's interaction with public opinion, as well as how people interpret the media will find much to interest them in this fascinating study.