Negotiating the Tangle of Law and Emotion

29 Pages Posted: 30 Oct 2008

See all articles by Laura E. Little

Laura E. Little

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law

Date Written: October, 29 2008


In this article, Professor Laura Little reviews Susan Bandes's The Passions of Law, an anthology of essays exploring the intersection of law and emotion. Collecting essays by both legal and non-legal scholars, the anthology presents law and emotion in a variety of settings, including criminal law, adjudication, legal formalism, and the origins of the law.

Professor Little praises the quality and breadth of scholarship contained in the anthology, describing the essays as a valuable source of insight into the human experience and the interaction of law and society. Observing that much interdisciplinary scholarship lacks an organized theoretical structure, Professor Little identifies the special changes of law and emotion studies resulting from disagreements within emotion theory itself.

Among the many analyses presented in the anthology is Bandes's theory that emotion actually improves law and decision making, a conclusion that would affect the law's traditional view that emotion is incompatible with rationality. Professor Little agrees with Bandes that law often integrates emotion, and encourages further development of emotion theory to strengthen law and emotion scholarship, enabling future scholars to test Bandes's theory. Professor Little acknowledges that the collection has many of the shortcomings associated with interdisciplinary studies, but argues that part of the problem is existing ambiguities in the independent fields of law and emotion theory. Professor Little argues forcefully that law and emotion scholarship would improve if organized around theoretical debates within emotion theory itself, such as scholarly dialogues on the definition of emotion and its relation to cognition. Professor Little defends interdisciplinary studies in general as being more and more important in the increasingly complex world we live in.

Keywords: interdisciplinary studies, law and psychology, law and society, emotion, cognition, legal theory, criminal law, adjudication, decision making, rationality

JEL Classification: K10, K19, K14, K30, K40, K41

Suggested Citation

Little, Laura E., Negotiating the Tangle of Law and Emotion (October, 29 2008). Cornell Law Review, Vol. 86, p. 974, 2001. Available at SSRN:

Laura E. Little (Contact Author)

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )

1719 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States
215-204-8955 (Phone)
215-204-1185 (Fax)

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