Law professors’ research plays an important role when it translates science and social science for legal purposes. Law reviews are frequently the sites where existing empirical research is systematically reviewed and applied to legal issues, creating a resource on which policymakers and practicing attorneys can draw. Law professors have the time and expertise to translate evolving knowledge in other parts of the academy into terms that make sense in terms of formal law (statutes, court opinions), on the one hand, and to practicing lawyers, on the other. They have an understanding of law that social scientists frequently lack. Increasing numbers of J.D./Ph.D.s may help in the translation process, adding further sophistication about empiricism to the legal perspective. But the task of translating empirical research for law will likely remain located in the law schools, with their special expertise in law.
The topic of implicit bias provides a concrete example of the legal academy’s role in translating empirical knowledge. Law professors have played an important role in translating recent findings on implicit bias in terms that make sense for legal practice. Empirical research from cognitive science, neuroscience, and social science is playing an increasingly visible role in helping the legal system gain a more accurate picture of the problems involved in discrimination. Legal scholars have undertaken to interpret and apply this research within some highly contested policy areas in the discrimination field. The purpose of this set of panels is to help legal scholars reflect on the process of translating social science into law.
This session will use an innovative format, in which an initial group of panelists will speak for 50 minutes on the issue of implicit bias at the level of individual actors. After a 10 minute break, a second group of panelists will join the first group for another 50 minute session. This second group will discuss the issue of implicit bias at the level of institutional actors, including employers. After a second 10 minute break, the two panels will jointly reconvene to discuss what lessons can be drawn from the day’s presentations about the use by legal scholars of social science in their own research. In particular, they will focus on how to generate the most productive translation of science and social science for law – and on the role of law professors in that process.
The Implicit Association Test (IAT) in Legal Settings