Current Issue

  • The Long-term Promise of Evolutionary Psychology for the Law

    Carlton J. Patrick

    While serving as Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld once responded to a reporter’s question by famously dividing knowledge into three categories: known knowns (the things we know we know), known unknowns (the things we know that we don’t know), and unknown unknowns (the things we don’t know we don’t know). Though he was criticized for his quip, Rumsfeld’s division contains much insight, particularly as it pertains to the scientific enterprise, which is concerned with identifying natural phenomena and then methodically investigating and cataloging the properties of the phenomena into working bodies of knowledge. In ...

  • Law and Neuroscience 2.0

    Francis X. Shen

    Law and neuroscience is approaching an inflection point. It has been roughly ten years since the New York Times Magazine put neurolaw on its cover, since Stanford neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky wrote his seminal article, “The Frontal Cortex and the Criminal Justice System”; and since law professor Adam Kolber taught the first law and neuroscience course. The MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience, which has been one of the epicenters of the field over this same period, will wind down its primary research projects soon.

    So what comes next? In this Article, I sketch out a vision for ...


    Julie Seaman & David Sloan Wilson

    he first amendment is not only protective of but exercised by human beings who are subject to all the vagaries of human nature and their emotions, motivations, limitations, integrity, insight and intelligence.

    “It’s true, I read it on the Internet!” – five people in a one-mile radius while you read this sentence.

  • Evolutionary Analysis an Law: On Disclosure Regulation

    Michael D. Guttentag

    This article, a contribution to a symposium celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the Society for Evolutionary Analysis in Law, applies evolutionary analysis to the study of disclosure regulation. I consider how an evolutionary perspective can improve our understanding of when and how to use disclosure requirements to regulate social activity.


    Evolutionary analysis in law offers both promise and peril. The promise comes from its unique ability to answer “Why?” questions about human behavior. If we can explain why a behavior occurs, then it should be easier to predict and explore the contours and intensity of that behavior and, ...

  • Vagueness Principles

    Carissa Byrne Hessick

    Courts have construed the right to due process to prohibit vague criminal statutes. Vague statutes fail to give sufficient notice, lead to arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement, and represent an unwarranted delegation to law enforcement. But these concerns are hardly limited to prosecutions under vague statutes. The modern expansion of criminal codes and broad deference to prosecutorial discretion imperil the same principles that the vagueness doctrine was designed to protect. As this Essay explains, there is no reason to limit the protection of these principles to vague statutes. Courts should instead revisit current doctrines which regularly permit insufficient notice, ...

  • Evolution, Norms, and the Social Contract

    Brian Skyrms

    I think of the social contract not as some monolithic unitary pact, but as an assemblage of norms. Norms are conventions that are backed by sanctions. Sometimes the sanctions are codified in the law and enforced by government. Sometimes norms are not explicit, but rather implicit in practice, and sanctions take the form of some type of social pressure.

  • PTSD, Biomarkers, and Rape Prosecutions

    Betsy J. Grey

    Courts traditionally have been reluctant to admit PTSD evidence in rape cases. Prosecutors often attempt to introduce such evidence to establish that the victim did not consent to the sexual contact, but courts have been concerned that the jury will improperly use the evidence for other purposes, such as proof that the rape occurred. This essay questions whether judicial hostility to PTSD evidence should be reconsidered, given how science is developing biological markers, or objective physiological measures, of PTSD. It concludes that, even with these scientific developments, courts should remain skeptical about admitting PTSD evidence. The main concern ...

  • KEYNOTE: Law and the Brain—Past, Present, and Future

    Owen D. Jones

    Law has two problems. Step back far enough from the particulate nature of law as we daily experience it—from the contracts, courtrooms, and codes, from the policies, patents, and police—and then the nationally and locally and topically idiosyncratic features of this uniquely elaborate activity of our species gradually blends into a homogenized cloud of effort, surrounding the first of these problems, at the core. The problem of human behavior. For were it not for the stubborn refusal of everyone (else) to behave the way we wanted, there would be no need for law. Seen at this scale, law ...

  • Biologically Biased Beneficence

    Jeffrey Evans Stake

    After death and after taxes, the laws relating to wills, trusts, and intestate succession determine what to do with a decedent’s assets. Much of that body of law is built upon the assumption that the law should help the decedent reach her goals if she has expressed them, or mimic her probable goals if she has not. As put by Daniel Kelly, “The organizing principle of succession law is testamentary freedom.” While the wishes of decedents are certainly relevant, as a normative matter there are other concerns deserving attention. This Paper discusses some biological reasons to worry about ...

  • Checks, Balances, and Nuclear Waste

    Bruce R. Huber

    Systems of political checks and balances, so prominently featured in the U.S. Constitution, are also commonly installed in statutory and regulatory regimes. Although such systems diffuse political authority and may facilitate participation and accountability, they come with a price. If exercised, political checks—even those that appear trivial—can obstruct statutory processes and saddle a policy system with an unintended default policy outcome. Policies that are neither debated nor chosen, but that emerge as unbidden defaults, exhibit the very democratic deficits that checks and balances are intended to remedy.

Read More