The Weaver Family Program in Law, Brain Sciences, and Behavior sponsors interdisciplinary faculty research and projects that explore law and human behavior across a broad spectrum of life science and social science fields. The program also organizes and hosts symposia and distinguished lectures featuring leading researchers working in law, brain sciences, and human behavior.
The program was endowed in 2022 by the Weaver Foundation in honor of Dr. Glenn M. Weaver, his wife Mary Ellen Weaver and the Weaver family.
Program Director: Owen Jones, Glenn M. Weaver, M.D., and Mary Ellen Weaver Chair in Law, Brain, and Behavior
Owen Jones uses methods and insights from brain-imaging (fMRI), evolutionary biology, and behavioral economics to learn more about how the brain's varied operations affect behaviors relevant to law. Jones has authored or co-authored more than 50 scholarly articles, book chapters and essays in such legal venues as the Columbia, Chicago, Pennsylvania, California, NYU, Northwestern, Cornell, Vanderbilt, and Michigan law reviews, and in such leading scientific journals as Neuron, Nature Neuroscience, the Journal of Neuroscience, Current Biology, Evolution and Human Behavior and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2015.
With over $7,600,000 in grants from the MacArthur Foundation, he designed and directed the Research Network on Law and Neuroscience, which published 108 brain-scanning studies and related works between 2011 and 2022. He and neurolaw colleagues have demonstrated that, by combining brain-imaging techniques with machine-learning algorithms, it is possible to distinguish between different culpable mental states in the brain. He and another research team discovered how the rational and emotional regions of the brain interact when individuals are deciding what punishment is appropriate for a crime and considering any mitigating factors that might affect punishment.
Chris Guthrie, Dean of Vanderbilt Law School, is a leading expert on behavioral law and economics, dispute resolution, negotiation and judicial decision making and Dean of Vanderbilt Law School. He is one of the authors of the influential textbook Dispute Resolution and Lawyers and has published more than 50 scholarly articles and essays in leading law journals, including the University of Chicago Law Review, Cornell Law Review, Michigan Law Review, Northwestern University Law Review and the University of Pennsylvania Law Review.
Terry Maroney investigates the intersection of law and emotion. Her work on the role of emotion in judicial behavior and decision-making forms the backbone of her scholarly focus. Weaving legal analysis together with the psychology, sociology and philosophy of emotion, her work illuminates how emotional experiences, dynamics, and their management interact with the constraints and demands of varied judicial roles, with deep implications for judges and the public they serve. Maroney’s publications, which include "(What We Talk About When We Talk About) Judicial Temperament," "Angry Judges," "Emotional Regulation and Judicial Behavior" and "The Persistent Cultural Script of Judicial Dispassion,” have been widely read among the U.S. judiciary.
Paige Marta Skiba has conducted innovative research in behavioral law and economics and commercial law. Her current research focuses on the causes and consequences of borrowing on high-interest credit, such as payday loans, auto-title loans and pawnshops, as well as labor arbitration. She has received numerous research grants and fellowships from institutions such as the National Science Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, the National Institute on Aging, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, the Burch Center for Tax Policy and Public Finance and the Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy.
Chris Slobogin has authored more than 200 articles, books and chapters on topics relating to criminal law and procedure, mental health law and evidence. He directs the Criminal Justice Program and is one of the five most cited criminal law and procedure law professors in the country over the past five years. His writing on mental disability and criminal law has been particularly influential, appearing in books published by the Cambridge, Chicago, Harvard, NYU and Oxford university presses and in journals such as the Chicago Law Review, Georgetown Law Journal, Northwestern Law Review, Pennsylvania Law Review, Stanford Law Review and Virginia Law Review. In recognition for his work in mental health law, Slobogin received both the American Board of Forensic Psychology's Distinguished Contribution Award and the American Psychology-Law Society’s Distinguished Contribution of Psychology and Law Award in 2016.
The Weaver Program hosts an annual lecture at Vanderbilt Law School, by a distinguished speaker, on important topics at the intersection of Law, Brain Sciences, and Behavior.
The inaugural lecture, scheduled on March 21,2023, will feature Anthony Wagner, who is the Lucie Stern Professor in the Social Sciences at Stanford University, and deputy director of the Stanford Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute. Professor Wagner’s research focuses on the cognitive neuroscience of memory and cognitive/executive control in young and older adults. His research has focused on encoding and retrieval mechanisms; interactions between declarative, nondeclarative and working memory; forms of cognitive control; neurocognitive aging; the functional organization of the pre-frontal cortex, parietal cortex and medial temporal lobe, assessed by functional MRI, scalp and intercranial EEG and transcranial magnetic stimulation. Wagner holds a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience from Stanford University and joined the faculty of its Department of Psychology in 2003.