Anger, provocation and loss of self-control

what does 'losing it' really mean?

Sarah Sorial*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Drawing on recent research in the philosophy of the emotions and empirical evidence from social psychology, this paper argues that the concept of loss of self-control at common law mischaracterises the relationship between the emotions and their effects on action. Emotions do not undermine reason in the ways offenders describe (and courts sometimes accept); nor do they compel people to act in ways they cannot control. As such, the idea of ‘loss of self-control’ is an inaccurate and misleading description of the psychological mechanisms at play in cases of emotionally motivated killing, where there may not be any ‘loss of self-control’ as such.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247–269
Number of pages23
JournalCriminal Law and Philosophy
Issue number2
Early online date30 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Criminal defences
  • Emotions
  • Loss of self-control
  • Provocation

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