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A Cognitive Approach to Law and Economics: Hayek's Legacy


  • Angela Ambrosino


Hayek's contribution to law has been criticized and disputed. This paper shares the opinion that the significance of Hayek's legal writings and their relevance to law and economics can only be understood by jointly analyzing his economic and legal theories. Moreover, I will argue that both theories must be reconsidered in light of Hayek's theory of mind. This theory represents the key to understanding Hayek's thought in that it provides an insight into the complexity of cognitive and psychological determinants of coordination processes. The latter are essential for understanding the emergence of social institutions. From this perspective, Hayek's theory bears close relevance to current research in law. He suggests a different methodological approach in which the analysis of the micro-foundations of behavior is of central importance. I argue that such multidisciplinary inquiry can contribute to legal theory by explaining perception in decision-making processes. This line of analysis may also contribute to a normative legal theory that reduces errors in legal contexts. Such an interdisciplinary approach seems to be consistent with the OIE requirement — in the tradition of Veblen and Commons — that economic science must deal with a consistent theory of human behavior.

Suggested Citation

  • Angela Ambrosino, 2014. "A Cognitive Approach to Law and Economics: Hayek's Legacy," Journal of Economic Issues, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 48(1), pages 19-48.
  • Handle: RePEc:mes:jeciss:v:48:y:2014:i:1:p:19-48
    DOI: 10.2753/JEI0021-3624480102

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    Cited by:

    1. Ambrosino, Angela & Fontana, Magda & Gigante, Anna Azzurra, 2015. "Shifting Boundaries in Economics: the Institutional Cognitive Strand," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers 201544, University of Turin.
    2. Angela Ambrosino, 2017. "The Role of Agents’ Propensity toward Conformity and Independence in the Process of Institutional Change," STOREPapers 1_2017, Associazione Italiana per la Storia dell'Economia Politica - StorEP.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • B1 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925
    • B40 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - General
    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • B53 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Austrian
    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact


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