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 applies experimental methods and theories of social psychology to study how people make law and policy judgments, with a focus on questions relating to punishment, morality, and justice. One of her primary areas of research is the covert operation of motivated cognition (the inadvertent tendency to reason toward a desired outcome) in legal decision making. She has studied the effects and legal implications of this psychological phenomenon in judgments about regulating morality through the criminal law and excluding illegally obtained evidence in criminal cases. She is also experimentally testing potential means of curtailing the motivated cognition process in legal contexts. Sood’s other lines of empirical work include studies on the psychological motives underlying support for severe interrogation and investigations of how people calibrate punishment based on the subjective experience of the offender. In addition, she has written in the areas of reproductive rights and international human rights law. Sood’s publications have appeared in both law reviews and refereed empirical journals, including the California Law Review, the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, the Annual Review of Law and Social Science, and the Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, among others. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Law School Admissions Council, and internal university grants.
Sood is a graduate of Yale Law School, where she served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal and a member of the Lowenstein International Human Rights Law Clinic and the New Haven Legal Assistance Clinic, Family Law Unit. She holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Psychology from Princeton University, where she was awarded the Center for Human Values Graduate Prize Fellowship, the Fellowship of Woodrow Wilson Scholars, and the Laurance S. Rockefeller Graduate Prize Fellowship.
Between law school and graduate school, Sood worked as a litigation associate at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP; clerked for Judge Kimba Wood in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York; and was awarded the Robert L. Bernstein Fellowship in International Human Rights, through which she worked on research projects in India and Kenya with the Center for Reproductive Rights’ International Legal Program.
Sood is an affiliate of UC Berkeley’s Institute of Personality and Social Research and the Center for the Study of Law and Society. She will be launching the Legal Judgments Lab at Berkeley Law.