All legal systems assume that the law influences people's choices. Society can influence people's decisions and encourage certain behaviors, while discouraging others. The Center for Empirical Legal Studies of Decision Making and the Law is dedicated to studying the way these processes occur, the factors influencing them, and their limitations. The Center brings together scholars from different areas: law, economics, and psychology in order to evaluate and scrutinize the theoretical paradigms that govern legal analysis. Its research agenda focuses on how different legal regimes affect behavior in a diverse set of cases. Specifically, the Center focuses on four areas:

  1. the judiciary;
  2. corporate governance;
  3. equality and discrimination; and
  4. regulation and compliance.

From a methodological perspective participants in the center utilize two primary types of tools. The first are experimental tools, which have seldom been used in legal scholarship in the past. The second are observational tools, with special attention directed at the creation of new data sets, referring primarily to the Israeli legal system, economy, and society. Cooperation between researchers from different disciplines and the use of different methodologies create unique synergies that bring about cutting edge research.


The Judiciary

The research conducted in the Center focuses on the Israeli legal system. Being a mixed system, influenced by both Common Law and European Civil Law traditions, Israel provides a unique laboratory for the studying of issues that are of great interest to both Common Law and Civil Law systems. Other developments, such as the recent establishment of the specialized tribunal for adjudicating corporate and securities matters, provide an excellent opportunity to study the effect of institutional reforms on the operation of the system. Comprising of jurists, psychologists, and economists who engage in experimental and empirical work, the Center facilitates fruitful exchange, cooperation, and integration of different research methodologies to better understand the judiciary and judicial decision-making.

Corporate Governance

Israel's market conditions and regulatory environment offer unique opportunities for empirical research that could substantially contribute to the literature on corporate governance and financial regulation and assist lawmakers in Israel and around the world in making sound policy decisions. The Center offers legal scholars and financial economists a genuinely interdisciplinary environment for conducting rigorous research on Israel's capital markets, and provides them with resources for hand-collecting data and establishing databases. Empirical studies are vital for designing an effective system of financial regulation and investor protection. Thus far, however, there has been little empirical research on Israel's capital market that could assist lawmakers, who are often required to adjust Israel's regulatory landscape to evolving market conditions.

Equality and Discrimination


Discrimination is a central concern of the Israeli legal system. The right to equality has been enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, which guaranteed equality among individuals independently of religion, race or gender. Public institutions have always been barred from discriminating individuals on the basis of irrelevant characteristics. In addition, the Israeli legislature has early on entrenched gender equality and enacted the Women's Equal Rights Law 1951 (later amended in 2000). It also enacted laws that prohibit discrimination in the private sector including, for instance, the Equal Employment Opportunities Law 1988 and the Prohibition in Discrimination in Products, Services, and Entry into Places of Entertainment and Public Places Law 2000. There are also legal provisions mandating affirmative action in various contexts including, most famously, the requirement for fair representation of women and minorities in public offices. Needless to say, the interpretation of these statutes has occupied Israeli courts and will continue to do so in the future, as it does in other legal systems.


The study of racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination has received much attention from social scientists in recent years. Much of the focus has been on economic outcomes in the labor, housing, product, and financial markets. For example, there is a voluminous literature on wage differentials and biases in hiring decisions. However, observed differences in economic outcomes between members of minority and majority groups do not necessarily indicate the presence of discrimination, as in many cases there are unobserved, potentially outcome-relevant, factors that are often hard to control for in the analysis. Correctly identifying instances of discrimination and their sources thus presents a serious challenge to researchers. The Center seeks to fill this void by using field experiments to rigorously study discrimination in Israel, as well as possible remedies - such as affirmative action, financial incentives for employers, tort law remedies (including compensation or injunctions), criminal sanctions for discriminatory behavior and even "shaming."



Regulation, Enforcement and Compliance


The regulation of human behavior through sanctions has been the hallmark of the economic analysis of law since Becker's seminal article on the matter (1968). At the core of this model lays the concept of expected sanctions that are determined by the probability of detection and the magnitude of the penalty, and the assumption that potential transgressors are rational utility maximizes. Recent studies have incorporated insights from behavioral economics and psychology into compliance models, and demonstrated that the desirable policies might be diametrically opposed to those suggested by rational choice theory. The Center furthers the study of regulation, enforcement, and compliance employing both stylized laboratory experiments and field studies with specific emphasis on the regulation of repeat behavior.