Applying Empirical Psychology to Inform Courtroom Adjudication — Potential Contributions and Challenges
130 Harv. L. Rev. F. 301 (2017)
15 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2017
Date Written: October 14, 2017
This piece looks to how research at the intersection of law and psychology can help inform courts about cognitive realities that are pertinent to the cases before them. Empirical psychology studies can offer insights into law and legal decisionmaking, while testing legal assumptions to improve the accuracy and fairness of the legal system. The first line of work I describe investigates the operation of a psychological phenomenon that can potentially skew judicial decisionmaking, and points toward possible remedies that depend on decisionmakers being made aware of this cognitive effect. The second line of work explores potential entry points for legal misunderstanding and bias in lay decisionmaking, and speaks to the responsibility judges bear when conveying the law to jurors. These examples serve to demonstrate some types of insights that law-and psychology research can offer courts, as well as some methodological limitations and potential means by which to address them. I will conclude by highlighting a few promising pathways toward facilitating judicial access to empirical psychology findings.
Keywords: psychology, law, legal decision-making, courts
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