This Readings seminar explores research on happiness and decision making, and the implications for legal systems, legal rules and life choices. Pursuing and maximizing happiness have long been prominent legal ideas, from Bentham and Jefferson to today. New research is generating direct measures of happiness (or subjective well-being) and comparisons across countries, demographic groups, activities, rules, choices, and different versions of happiness. A growing body of research in psychology, neuroscience, economics and law is investigating how people make decisions, and whether our decisions improve our happiness. In this Readings seminar, we will explore this research and its implications. Why are some societies and some individuals happier than others? What role for legal systems, lawyers, and our own choices? How well can people envision and pursue their own future happiness? What social cues and mental heuristics prompt us to make the choices we make? If we have difficulty making good choices, can the law help?
This is a yearlong course, with students receiving a total of 1 credit upon completion. It is open to 12 students and meets for 7 sessions of 2 hours each, once per month, spread over the full academic year. For each session, we will read a book or a set of articles. Specific meeting dates and times will be arranged in consultation with the students.