As law and economics turns 40 years old, its continued vitality is threatened by its unrealistic core behavioral assumption: that people subject to the law act rationally. Professors Korobkin and Ulen argue that law and economics can reinvigorate itself by replacing the rationality assumption with a more nuanced understanding of human behavior that draws on cognitive psychology, sociology and other behavioral sciences, thus creating a new scholarly paradigm called "law and behavioral science". This article provides an early blueprint for research in this paradigm.
The authors first explain the various ways the rationality assumption is used in legal scholarship, and why it leads to unsatisfying policy prescriptions. They then systematically examine the empirical evidence inconsistent with the rationality assumption and, drawing on a wide-range of substantive areas of law, explain how normative policy conclusions of law and economics will change and improve under the law-and-behavioral-science approach.