Strategic Mechanisms, Functional Modeling and Experimental Design in Neurolaw

23 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2009 Last revised: 6 Oct 2009

Date Written: August 3, 2009


This paper has four goals. The first is to provide an overview of the emerging sub-discipline of “Neurolaw.” Incorporating the insights of neuroscience into legal analysis and policy-setting is a rapidly expanding enterprise.

The second goal is to focus on game theory and mechanism design, which provide useful analytic starting points for applying cognitive neuroscience in a social context. This leads to the third goal. This paper suggests that the formal structures of the mechanisms of sociality may be represented in the structures of the cognitive processes which implement them. I do not mean to suggest that there is a simple and direct homology between such mechanisms and any particular physical structures within the brain. It is widely recognized, however, that the brain is a computational device, and the brain processes which carry out a particular type of computation will necessarily reflect the requirements of the computation being made.

Finally, the paper suggests an application of this mechanism-based approach to a particular instance: understanding the nature of human moral commitment.

Keywords: Neurolaw; Neuroscience, Mechanism Design, Moral Sentiments, Law, Moral Commitment, Game Theory

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Goodenough, Oliver R., Strategic Mechanisms, Functional Modeling and Experimental Design in Neurolaw (August 3, 2009). Vermont Law School Research Paper No. 10-15, CELS 2009 4th Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper, Available at SSRN: or

Oliver R. Goodenough (Contact Author)

Vermont Law School ( email )

164 Chelsea Street
P.O. Box 96
South Royalton, VT 05068
United States
802 831 1231 (Phone)


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