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Are Heuristics a Problem or a Solution?

HEURISTICS AND THE LAW, Christoph Engel & Gerd Gigerenzer, eds., Cambridge, MA: MIT Press

26 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2005  

Douglas A. Kysar

Yale University - Law School


This report reflects the combined efforts of one subgroup of an assemblage of distinguished scholars in law, business, economics, psychology, and neuroscience who gathered for a week in Berlin in 2004 as part of the 94th Dahlem Workshop on Heuristics and the Law. This subgroup was moderated by Robert Frank (Cornell University), and included Peter Ayton (City University - London), Bruno Frey (University of Zurich), Gerd Gigerenzer (Max Planck Institute for Human Development), Paul Glimcher (New York University), Russell Korobkin (University of California, Los Angeles), Donald Langevoort (Georgetown University), and Stefan Magen (Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods). Douglas Kysar (Cornell University) served as rapporteur.

Charged with addressing the theme, Are Heuristics a Problem or a Solution?, the subgroup discussed and debated a range of methodological, descriptive, and prescriptive issues concerning the implications of cognitive psychology for law, many of which are summarized in this consensus report. Included are (1) a general introduction to the subject of heuristics in decision theory, with particular attention to the distinction between optimality-based and heuristic-based decision making models within psychology; (2) an attempt to synthesize these two psychological research paradigms into a single conceptual framework that helps to identify important areas in which further research and understanding are needed; (3) an overview of scholarship to date on heuristics and the law, including the observation that this scholarship has ignored certain significant lessons of the heuristics research tradition in psychology; and (4) a compilation of suggestions for future interdisciplinary research concerning both the use of heuristics by legal subjects whose behavior the law is attempting to influence, and the use of heuristics by policymakers as a model for the substantive design of legal rules.

Keywords: Heuristics, Bounded Rationality, Behavioral Law and Economics

Suggested Citation

Kysar, Douglas A., Are Heuristics a Problem or a Solution?. HEURISTICS AND THE LAW, Christoph Engel & Gerd Gigerenzer, eds., Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Available at SSRN:

Douglas A. Kysar (Contact Author)

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

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