Embodied Rationality

50 Pages Posted: 14 May 2009 Last revised: 28 Mar 2010

See all articles by Barbara A. Spellman

Barbara A. Spellman

University of Virginia School of Law

Simone Schnall

University of Cambridge

Date Written: October 2009


In the last decade, many cognitive and social psychology researchers have been inspired by the notion of "embodied cognition" – that cognition is grounded in actual bodily states, and that cognition takes place in the service of action. Consider two examples: (1) when wearing a backpack people perceive hills to be steeper than when not wearing one; (2) when holding a cup containing a hot drink people rate another person as more warm and friendly than when holding a cup containing a cold drink.

Findings such as these suggest that behavioral law and economics's emphasis on "irrationality" in decision making could benefit by considering work in embodied cognition. Accordingly, this paper exploits recent research and theory on embodied cognition to find lessons for behavioral law and economics and theories of rationality.

Keywords: rationality, decision making, embodied cognition, behavioral law and economics

JEL Classification: D8

Suggested Citation

Spellman, Barbara A. and Schnall, Simone, Embodied Rationality (October 2009). Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2009-17, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1404020 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1404020

Barbara A. Spellman (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

Simone Schnall

University of Cambridge ( email )

Trinity Ln
Cambridge, CB2 1TN
United Kingdom

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