John Drobak
Washington University in St. Louis, USA



(Wednesday, 2nd June 2010)

Title : The Limits of Rational Choice Theory in Economics and Law

Rational choice theory is the foundation of both economics and law. Advances in behavioral psychology, experimental economics, and cognitive science have raised questions about the theory’s ability to describe human decision making in some circumstances. This lecture will explain what we have learned about human behavior and apply that knowledge to applications of both economic and legal theory. The lecture will also emphasize the importance of constraints, including Friedrich Hayek’s notion that culture is an important constraint on law.

Bibliographical references :

Douglass C. North, “Institutions and Economics,” in A Companion to Cognitive Science 713-721 (William Bechtel & George Graham, eds., 1999).
Available at:

John N. Drobak, “A Cognitive Science Perspective on Legal Incentives,” in Institutions, Contracts and Organizations:  Perspectives from New Institutional Economics 279-290 (Claude Menard, ed., 2000).
Available at:

John N. Drobak & Douglass C. North, “Understanding Judicial Decision-Making: The Importance of Constraints on Non-Rational Deliberations,” 26 Washington University Journal of Law & Policy 131-152 (2008).
Available at:

CNRS Chaire GovReg Europe