Show (Some) Emotions

Posted: 25 Mar 2015

See all articles by Toni M. Massaro

Toni M. Massaro

University of Arizona College of Law

Date Written: 1999


Social norm theory is a strand of behavioral economics that analyzes social norms, status competition, and social meaning, and the ways in which all three influence individual behavior. This literature complements (or offers a "friendly amendment" to) neoclassical, rational-choice models of individual behavior, by adding social context and human emotions that help explain individual conduct that otherwise might appear inexplicable and irrational. The aim is to beef up economists' unrealistically thin account of human behavior, while still preserving the relative simplicity and predictive power of the economics model.

It is no surprise that social norm literature has caught the eye of legal scholars. Several writers have applied this literature to constitutional law, tort law, contract law, and criminal law. The criminal law scholars among them, whose work is the focus of this article, are recasting the social order and deterrence models that dominated criminal law theory in the 1940s-1960s into the social norm vocabulary of social meaning and social influence.

Keywords: social norm theory, social context, human emotions, criminal law, social meaning, social influence

Suggested Citation

Massaro, Toni Marie, Show (Some) Emotions (1999). The Passions of Law (Book) 80 (Susan A. Bandes ed., 1999), Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper, Available at SSRN:

Toni Marie Massaro (Contact Author)

University of Arizona College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 210176
Tucson, AZ 85721-0176
United States
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