A New Synthesis for Law and Emotions: Insights from the Behavioral Sciences

49 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2016


The business of the law is to influence human behavior. To do this effectively, lawmakers must make assumptions about human psychology and how people think. While the behavioral sciences dedicate their entire enterprises to investigating these questions, the law, even at its best, incorporates knowledge from those disciplines in a fragmentary and unsystematic fashion. At its worst, the legal system overlooks or ignores advances in other fields and instead relies on inherited intuitions of behavior that can be both naive and difficult to enumerate with precision. Nowhere is this phenomenon more evident than in the law’s longstanding struggle with emotions, where attempts to codify, incorporate, explain, and otherwise reckon with our feelings have produced many of the law’s most nebulous and imprecise concepts. Using insights from the modern behavioral sciences, especially those informed by an evolutionary approach to human behavior, this article attempts to inform a legal analysis of emotions and address many of the unsettled questions of the Law and Emotions movement.

Keywords: criminal law, behavioral law and economics, rationality, behavioral sciences, evolution, evolutionary psychology, evolutionary analysis, behavioral biology, emotion, cognitive science, decision-making

JEL Classification: A12, B25, C70, C71, C90, C91, K00, K14, K40, K42

Suggested Citation

Patrick, Carlton, A New Synthesis for Law and Emotions: Insights from the Behavioral Sciences. 47 Arizona State Law Journal 1239 (2015), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2763719

Carlton Patrick (Contact Author)

University of Central Florida ( email )

4000 Central Florida Blvd
Orlando, FL 32816-1400
United States

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