Feelthinking Like a Lawyer: The Role of Emotion in Legal Reasoning and Decision-making

37 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2020

Date Written: December 16, 2019


The law has had an uneasy relationship with emotion, and we are trained to think that the best decisions are those made based on reason alone. The primacy of reason can be traced at least as far back as Plato, who believed that emotion interferes with reason and diverts us from truth. This Article begins by exploring our ancient mistrust of emotion, particularly in the law, and more recent theories in cognitive psychology and behavioral neuroscience positing that reason and motion work together in all forms of decision-making to help us make better decisions. Because “thinking like a lawyer” may more aptly be described as “feelthinking like a lawyer,” this Article then identifies several points in the legal reasoning process where the influence of emotion may be most significant and noticeably “felt.” It concludes that because feelthinking occurs on behalf of clients within specific ethical constraints, understanding the role of emotion in legal decision-making is useful both to the practitioner and the professor of law.

Keywords: emotion, decision, decision-making, reason, judgment, intuition, moral, legal, law

Suggested Citation

Tiscione, Kristen Konrad, Feelthinking Like a Lawyer: The Role of Emotion in Legal Reasoning and Decision-making (December 16, 2019). Wake Forest Law Review, 2019, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3508004

Kristen Konrad Tiscione (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001
United States

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