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date: 17 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

After contrasting behavioral criminal law and economics with the retributivist tradition and with traditional criminal law and economics, the chapter illustrates how various behavioral phenomena can be used to predict the effects of criminal law norms and to design criminal law in a way that serves social goals, in particular deterrence. It explores the effects of uncertainty on deterrence; it examines the effects of prospect theory and the differential effects of future uncertainty (prediction) and past uncertainty (postdiction) on the propensity to commit crime. It also investigates the effects of overoptimism on the propensity to commit crime. Last the chapter discusses the literature on happiness and its relevance to the optimal design of criminal law. It establishes that the literature on happiness can be used to promote retributive justice concerns. The chapter concludes by examining critically the potential contribution of behavioral studies to the optimal design of criminal law norms.

Keywords: behavioral criminal law and economics, criminal law, punishment, deterrence, law enforcement prospect theory, happiness, uncertainty, overoptimism, broken window theory, availability bias

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