Law and Social Science in the Twenty-First Century

78 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2003

Date Written: October 2002


The use of social science - of psychology in particular - to inform legal theory and practice is fast becoming the latest craze in the pages of legal academia. Despite this increase in research, practitioners in both disciplines have been frustrated, as well. Social scientists and others have viewed the legal system as underusing, misusing, or ignoring their theories and research. At the same time, the law has typically viewed social science as atheoretical, or as not yet having reached sufficient consensus to have anything helpful to say to the legal system.

In the present paper I address a number of these issues: the peculiar relationship between psychology and law; traditional areas that psycholegal scholars have examined and the successes and failures in those areas; evaluation of some of the current trends of incorporating social science work into legal academia (e.g., behavioral law and economics, law and the emotions); and, especially, suggestions for how to ameliorate some of the tension between the two disciplines that has led to frustration on both "sides."

In addition to descriptive accounts of successful and unsuccessful interdisciplinary work by both legal scholars and social scientists, I try to identify ways of addressing some of the tensions between law and social science - some may be irremediable, but for others I suggest concrete ways to resolve them. First, I discuss substantive areas in which interdisciplinary communication can be developed. I also emphasize methodological steps social scientists can take to most usefully present research to the legal system, focusing on meta-analytic techniques in particular.

In the article's final sections I address tensions less conducive to remedy, but I close with optimism about the present and future of law and social science in the twenty-first century.

Keywords: Law and Social Science, Law and Psychology, Behavioral Law and Economics, Law and the Emotions

Suggested Citation

Blumenthal, Jeremy A., Law and Social Science in the Twenty-First Century (October 2002). Available at SSRN: or

Jeremy A. Blumenthal (Contact Author)

Syracuse University - College of Law ( email )

Syracuse, NY 13244-1030
United States
315-443-2083 (Phone)
315-443-5394 (Fax)

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