Behavioral Law and Economics: Substance and Methodology

Location: Notre Dame Law School

For several decades, one of the leading approaches to legal theory has been the economic analysis of law. The theory of human behavior underlying standard economic analysis of law (like economic analysis more generally) is the rational choice theory. According to this theory, people strive to enhance their own well-being, choosing the available option that would maximize their expected utility. In the past two decades or so, hand-in-hand with comparable developments in economics, the economic analysis of law has been challenged by a growing body of experimental and empirical studies attesting to prevalent and systematic deviations from the assumptions of economic rationality. These studies have questioned both the assumption of thin, cognitive rationality (by showing that people’s preferences often do not comply with the rules of dominance, transitivity, and invariance) and the assumption of thick, motivational rationality (by pointing to the role of motivations such as envy and altruism).

Initially perceived as the antithesis to standard law and economics, over time these insights have been largely integrated into mainstream economic analysis of law, thereby establishing a new field of inquiry: behavioral law and economics. Behavioral insights can have particular value for legal analysis, as legal scholars are often interested in real-life policy-making, which must take into account people’s actual behavioral characteristics. Moreover, the growing influence of behavioral law and economics has been accompanied in recent years by the emergence of empirical and experimental legal studies. Rather than only draw on the results of experimental and empirical studies in the social sciences, a steadily growing number of researchers now engage in experimental and empirical studies designed specifically to answer questions that are of especial interest to legal scholarship.

The dramatic growth and influence of behavioral and experimental law and economics deserves close study and attention, to which this conference is devoted. Specifically, the conference builds on the contribution of leading scholars in the field to a first-of-its-kind “Handbook on Behavioral Economics and the Law” that will be published by Oxford University Press, offering a unique forum to examine the state-of-the-art of behavioral analysis throughout the law, its methodology and future challenges.

Conference Schedule

Conference participants include:

  • Russell Covey, Associate Professor of Law, Georgia State University College of Law
  • Melvin Eisenberg, Koret Professor of Law, University of California Berkeley School of Law
  • Christoph Engel, Director, Max Planck Institute of Research on Collective Goods
  • Yuval Feldman, Professor of Law, Bar Ilan University School of Law
  • Kent Greenfield, Professor and Law Fund Research Scholar, Boston College Law School
  • Adrian Kuenzler, Yale Law School
  • Kevin McCabe, Professor of Law and Economics, George Mason University
  • Gregory Mitchell, Mortimer M. Caplin Professor of Law and Class of 1948 Professor of Scholarly Research in Law, University of Virginia School of Law
  • Janice Nadler, Benjamin Mazur Summer Research Professor, Northwestern Law
  • Francesco Parisi, Oppenheimer Wolff and Donnelly Professor of Law, University of Minnesota Law School, Professor of Economics, University of Bologna
  • Daniel Pi, University of Minnesota Law School
  • Ariel Rubinstein, Salzberg Chair, Tel Aviv University School of Economics
    Professor, NYU Department of Economics
  • Doron Teichman, Senior Lecturer, Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Law
  • Thomas Ulen, Swanlund Chair, University of Illinois College of Law
  • Fredrick Vars, Associate Professor of Law, University of Alabama School of Law
  • Sean Williams, Assistant Professor of Law, The University of Texas at Austin School of Law
  • Eyal Zamir, Augusto Levi Professor of Commercial Law, Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Law