Professor 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 seminar on Law & Psychology.
In her scholarship, Sood combines legal analysis with psychology theory and experimental, observational, and survey methodologies to study how legal decision-makers assess and apply evidence, law, and criminal liability. Her work empirically investigates and addresses misalignments between legal expectations of how laws/procedures operate and the socio-cognitive realities of human decision-making, with the aim of improving the accuracy and fairness of the criminal justice system.
Sood’s research has uncovered novel dimensions of deep-rooted legal doctrines and practices—shedding new empirical light, for example, on how jurors are likely to construe legal standards for criminal attempt; how judges apply the exclusionary rule in search-and-seizure cases; the psychological malleability of “harm” in criminal law; and the effects of verdict format in criminal trials. In addition, Sood has experimentally studied the psychology of severe interrogation and has written on issues of gender justice and international human rights law. Her work has been published in leading law reviews and peer-reviewed journals, including the Stanford Law Review, Virginia Law Review, Harvard Law Review Forum, Georgetown Law Journal, Annual Review of Law and Social Science, California Law Review, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, and Theoretical Inquiries in Law.
Sood earned a J.D. from Yale Law School, where she served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal and was awarded the Robert L. Bernstein Fellowship in International Human Rights. She earned an A.B. summa cum laude, an M.A., and a Ph.D. in Psychology from Princeton University, where she trained under social psychologist John Darley and was awarded the Center for Human Values Graduate Prize Fellowship, the Laurance S. Rockefeller Graduate Prize Fellowship, and the Fellowship of Woodrow Wilson Scholars.
Prior to entering academia, Sood worked as a litigation associate at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP and served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Kimba M. Wood in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. In addition, she spent two years as a research fellow with the International Legal Program of the Center for Reproductive Rights, during which she conducted field investigations, judicial trainings, and authored publications on legal mechanisms for addressing large-scale rights violations in India and Kenya. Sood has also worked at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP in New York, the National Center for Youth Law in Oakland, and the Appeals Bureau of the New York County District Attorney’s Office.
Sood is a co-founder of the Law and Society Association’s Collaborative Research Network on Law, Society, and Psychological Science. At UC Berkeley, she serves on the University’s IRB Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects and is an Affiliate of the Institute of Personality and Social Research, the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program, the Center for the Study of Law and Society, the Institute of Governmental Studies, and the Institute for South Asia Studies. Sood also serves as an external peer reviewer for various legal, empirical, and scientific journals.
A.B., Princeton University (1999)
J.D., Yale Law School (2003)
M.A., Princeton University (2011)
Ph.D., Princeton University (2013)