Psychology and the New Private Law


Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Tess Wilkinson-Ryan offers a framework for understanding the contributions of psychological methods and insights for private law. She argues that psychological analysis of legal decision-making challenges the predominant conception of choice and preference in private law, especially in the wake of the law and economics movement. Unlike economists, psychologists almost never talk about preferences; they talk about decisions, choices, beliefs, and attitudes. One of the interventions of psychology in the NPL is to reject simplistic accounts of preferences. Focusing on cognitive and social psychology, Wilkinson-Ryan explores how each choice entails a series of considerations: doing the math (calculation), understanding self-interest (motivation), reckoning with the visceral experience of being a human (emotion), internalizing social norms (social influence), and conducting a moral audit (moral values). In doing so, Wilkinson-Ryan outlines the case for taking behavior and cognition seriously in the NPL.


Psychology, new private law, behavioral law and economics, cognitive & social psychology

Publication Title

The Oxford Handbook of the New Private Law

Publication Citation

In The Oxford Handbook of the New Private Law 125 (Andrew S Gold et al. eds., Oxford 2020)

Full text not available in Penn Law Legal Scholarship Repository.