Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Law and Human Behavior 30 (2006), pp. 115–118. Copyright © 2006 American Psychology-Law Society/Division 41 of the American Psychological Association; published by Springer Verlag. Used by permission.


In the last decade, researchers have shown burgeoning interest in issues at the intersection of emotion and law. Given the longstanding interest in emotion among social (and other) psychologists, most of this research has come from a psychological perspective, but it also includes work with a legal, sociological, philosophical, and neuroscience flavor. The issues are theoretical as well as practical, influencing both psychological theories of emotion and matters of legal practice and policy.

The law adopts a double standard in its treatment of emotion. In some areas, the law explicitly addresses emotion as a legitimate consideration, but in other areas, the law denies emotion any role in legal decision making. For example, legal analysis requires decision makers to consider the emotional reactions of others when classifying certain offenses for purposes of criminal culpability (e.g., “hate crimes” and “crimes of passion”), awarding damages for emotional injuries (e.g., mental suffering and emotional distress), and allowing jurors’ moral judgments to influence certain consequential decisions such as punitive damages, capital sentencing, and jury nullification. At the same time, the courts make what may be untenable presumptions when they require fact finders to ignore their affective states and evaluate evidence, such as gory crime scene photographs, dispassionately. Thus, the field of law and emotion is ripe for scholarly exploration.

This Special Issue samples some of the ways in which emotion is relevant to legal issues. The first two papers, by Terry Maroney and by Neil Feigenson and Jaihyun Park, locate the topic of emotion in legal judgment within a broader theoretical framework. Maroney asks the question of whether law and emotion, as a distinct research field, deserves the status of other “law-and” movements, such as law-and-psychology, law-and-economics, etc. Drawing on scholarship in a number of disciplines (e.g., psychology, law, sociology, and philosophy), she supports the academic status of law and emotion by presenting a descriptive taxonomy of this new field. In addition to organizing extant research on the topic, this taxonomy identifies gaps in the existing literature and suggests areas for future research.