Empirical Legal Realism: A New Social Scientific Assessment of Law and Human Behavior

Article excerpt

EDITOR'S NOTE

Welcome to the 2003 Northwestern University Law Review Symposium. This volume collects a number of articles that sharply analyze and question the foundations of the economic analysis of law. The law and economics tradition has helped shape legal thinking and policy in dramatic fashion, and it has influenced the way that professors teach, lawyers argue, and judges judge. At its core, the law and economics tradition embraces the notion of a rational, utility-maximizing actor as the principal figure with which the law should concern itself. The contributors to this Symposium question whether people truly fit the profile offered by law and economics scholars. Combining insights from psychology, sociology, cognitive science, and empirical research, the authors in this volume, as well as their behavioral economics-oriented predecessors, attempt to develop a fuller, more nuanced understanding of human behavior and decisionmaking. If people do not always act rationally and in their own self-interest, then perhaps some of the normative judgments averred by law and economics scholars are worthy of reexamination.

The articles in this Symposium include broadly focused pieces that discuss the conceptual underpinnings of social science work and its relationship with law and more narrowly tailored pieces that discuss individual social and psychological phenomena and how they should influence the development of various legal doctrines. …