This chapter critically evaluates how experiments are used to study cognitive processes involved in legal reasoning. Looking at research on legal presumptions, heuristic processing, and various types of bias in judicial decision-making, the analysis considers how experiments with judges, lay participants, and other legally trained populations have contributed to our understanding of the psychological processes involved in fact-finding and legal decision-making. It explores how behavioral economics, dual process models, cultural cognition, and motivated reasoning frameworks have been used to inform experimental research. The chapter concludes with a discussion of what findings add to our normative understanding of issues like accuracy and neutrality in decision-making and a call to better integrate knowledge gained through experimental methods across disciplinary boundaries.
Daniel E. Ho and Michael Morse
This chapter reviews measurement technologies that have rapidly invigorated the study of judicial behavior, examining the standard approach to measuring judicial “ideal points” and discussing how such measures have facilitated broad new lines of inquiry in understanding judicial decision-making. But the measures, as this chapter explains, are no panacea. Proper use and interpretation depend critically on qualitative assumptions and understanding of underlying case law. This chapter argues that the way forward combines jurisprudentially meaningful data collection with advances in measurement technologies. These concepts are illustrated by empirically informing a long-standing debate about the effect of the Nuremberg trial on Justice Jackson’s jurisprudence.
Sara C. Benesh
The study of courts has been tremendously advanced via the availability of data, key to an empirical, scientific analysis of the decision-making of the political actors that make up the judiciary. Data availability has also enabled a rich and complete description of the courts’ work. This chapter considers the evolution of the study of the subfield of political science that considers judges and courts with particular focus on the role of data therein. It concludes that the Spaeth database, and other, similar multi-user publicly available databases, have had a huge influence on the evolution of public law into mainstream political science. While some argue over the specifics of the plethora of coding decisions made in the creation of such databases, the positive impact they have had on the scholarship about courts cannot be overstated.