Foreword: Advances in the Behavioral Analysis of Law: Markets, Institutions, and Contracts

Avishalom Tor, Notre Dame Law School

Symposium introduction


The collection of articles in this Special Issue is based on an international conference on Advances in the Behavioral Analysis of Law: Markets, Institutions, and Contracts that took place on December 8, 2009 at the University of Haifa Faculty of Law in Israel. The conference addressed cutting edge legal issues at the intersection of law, economics, and psychology from a diverse set of viewpoints, bringing together scholars engaged in both theoretical and experimental behavioral analyses of law.

The behavioral analysis of law—the application of empirical behavioral evidence to legal analysis—has become increasingly popular in legal scholarship in recent years. This approach provides an explicit account of legally relevant behavior based on empirical research instead of intuition or theory alone. Drawing on the extensive findings of behavioral decision research, the psychology of Judgment and Decision Making (JDM), and related fields, the behavioral approach thus offers an empirically-based middle ground between the theoretical abstractions of the rational-actor model used by traditional law and economics and the implicit, intuitive, and unstructured view of human behavior of traditional legal scholarship.

Yet despite its many recent contributions, current behavioral-legal scholarship exhibits certain limitations. The present issue addresses these challenges by bringing together a unique set of wide-ranging contributions from scholars with behavioral expertise and diverse disciplinary backgrounds in law, psychology, and economics. These contributions direct their nuanced inquiries to the interplay of behavioral phenomena, markets, and other legal institutions; a number of them also employ focused experimental tests to generate new, relevant data. Moreover, the articles in this issue address three important areas of behavioral-legal analysis, including litigation and procedure, contracts and market behavior, and the design of the law and legal institutions more generally.