Heuristics and the Law
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From Dahlem Workshop Reports

Heuristics and the Law

Edited by Gerd Gigerenzer and Christoph Engel

Experts in law, psychology, and economics explore the power of "fast and frugal" heuristics in the creation and implementation of law





Experts in law, psychology, and economics explore the power of "fast and frugal" heuristics in the creation and implementation of law

In recent decades, the economists' concept of rational choice has dominated legal reasoning. And yet, in practical terms, neither the lawbreakers the law addresses nor officers of the law behave as the hyperrational beings postulated by rational choice. Critics of rational choice and believers in "fast and frugal heuristics" propose another approach: using certain formulations or general principles (heuristics) to help navigate in an environment that is not a well-ordered setting with an occasional disturbance, as described in the language of rational choice, but instead is fundamentally uncertain or characterized by an unmanageable degree of complexity. This is the intuition behind behavioral law and economics. In Heuristics and the Law, experts in law, psychology, and economics explore the conceptual and practical power of the heuristics approach in law. They discuss legal theory; modeling and predicting the problems the law purports to solve; the process of making law, in the legislature or in the courtroom; the application of existing law in the courts, particularly regarding the law of evidence; and implementation of the law and the impact of law on behavior.

Contributors Ronald J. Allen, Hal R. Arkes, Peter Ayton, Susanne Baer, Martin Beckenkamp, Robert Cooter, Leda Cosmides, Mandeep K. Dhami, Robert C. Ellickson, Christoph Engel, Richard A. Epstein, Wolfgang Fikentscher, Axel Flessner, Robert H. Frank, Bruno S. Frey, Gerd Gigerenzer, Paul W. Glimcher, Daniel G. Goldstein, Chris Guthrie, Jonathan Haidt, Reid Hastie, Ralph Hertwig, Eric J. Johnson, Jonathan J. Koehler, Russell Korobkin, Stephanie Kurzenhäuser, Douglas A. Kysar, Donald C. Langevoort, Richard Lempert, Stefan Magen, Callia Piperides, Jeffrey J. Rachlinski, Clara Sattler de Sousa e Brito, Joachim Schulz, Victoria A. Shaffer, Indra Spiecker genannt Döhmann, John Tooby, Gerhard Wagner, Elke U. Weber, Bernd Wittenbrink


$46.00 S | £36.00 ISBN: 9780262072755 480 pp. | 9 in x 6 in 24 illus.


Gerd Gigerenzer

Gerd Gigerenzer is Director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin. He is the author of Calculated Risks, among other books, and the coeditor of Bounded Rationality: The Adaptive Toolbox and Heuristics and the Law, both published by the MIT Press.

Christoph Engel

Christoph Engel is Director of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Bonn, and a member of the Faculty of Law and Economics at the University of Bonn. He is the author of Generating Predictability: Institutional Analysis and Design and other books.


  • Amos Tversky was one of the most important social scientists of the last century. This extraordinary collection demonstrates his range and brilliance, and in particular his genius for showing how and why human intuitions go wrong. Is there a 'hot hand' in basketball? Is arthritis pain related to the weather? Why do we exaggerate certain risks? Why are some conflicts so hard to resolve? Tversky's answers will surprise you. Indispensable reading, and full of implications, for everyone interested in social science.

    Cass R. Sunstein

    Law School and Department of Political Science, University of Chicago

  • For legal academics and policy makers who think that the use of heuristics leads to suboptimal decision making and the possibility of exploitation, this book opens a window onto a more charitable view of heuristics: that they are fast and frugal decision-making techniques that may outperform statistical methods that purport to evaluate a fuller set of informational cues. It provides not just a conceptual overview of alternative understandings of heuristics but a number of interesting hypotehses about jurisprudence, rules of evidence and jury behavior, and barriers to implementation of formal legal dommands.

    Mark Kelman

    William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law and Vice Dean, Stanford Law School