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About Avani Mehta Sood

Avani Mehta Sood is a social psychologist and legal scholar who joined the Berkeley Law faculty in 2013.  She teaches Criminal Law, Evidence, and a Colloquium on Law & Psychology.

Sood studies how legal decision makers—particularly judges and jurors—make decisions about criminal liability, evidence, and punishment. She employs experimental and observational methodologies, theories of psychology, and doctrinal analysis to identify where and why the legal system’s assumptions about how its laws and procedures operate are at odds with the cognitive realities of the human decision makers who apply them. She further explores the implications of these disconnects, and tests legal and psychological routes to remedying them, in order to improve the accuracy and fairness of the criminal justice system.

One of Sood’s primary areas of research is the covert operation of motivated cognition—an unintentional human tendency to construe information in a motivated manner to reach desired outcomes—in legal decision making. Sood has empirically demonstrated this psychological phenomenon, and identified ways in which to curtail it, in judgments about suppressing unlawfully obtained evidence in criminal cases and regulating morality through the criminal law.  Sood’s scholarship has also uncovered doctrinal contexts in which the law itself—and the legal standards and instructions through which it is conveyed—can give rise to misunderstanding and biases in jury decision making. To test a potential procedural approach to resolving such risks, she has recently embarked on a new line of experimental work on verdict format in criminal cases. Sood has also experimentally studied the psychological motives underlying support for severe interrogation in the context of terrorism, and has written in the areas of reproductive rights, gender justice, and international human rights law.

Positions

Present Assistant Professor of Law, Berkeley Law
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Articles (8)

Dissertation (1)

Forthcoming (3)

Contributions to Books (1)

Reports (2)