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.
Sood employs experimental and observational methodologies, legal analysis, and theories of psychology to study how legal decision-makers make judgments about criminal liability, evidence, and punishment. She seeks to identify where and why expectations of how the legal system operates are misaligned with the socio-cognitive realities of human decision-making. She also explores legal and psychological remedies for resolving these misalignments, to improve the accuracy and fairness of the criminal justice system.
Sood’s empirical research has uncovered new dimensions of deep-rooted legal doctrines and practices, including novel findings on how jurors are likely to construe legal standards for criminal attempt, how judges tend to apply the exclusionary rule in search-and-seizure cases, why concepts of “harm” in criminal law can be psychologically malleable, and whether verdict format affects determinations of criminal liability. In addition, she has experimentally studied the psychology of severe interrogation and has written on 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 also 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 judicial law clerk for the Honorable Kimba Wood in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, a litigation associate at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, and a research fellow with the International Legal Program of the Center for Reproductive Rights (for which she conducted field investigations and authored publications on legal mechanisms for addressing large-scale women’s rights violations in India and Kenya). She has also worked at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, the National Center for Youth Law, and 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 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. In addition, she serves on the University’s IRB Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects, on the Advisory Board of Partnership for Trauma Recovery (a non-profit organization that provides psychosocial services for survivors of war, torture, and human trafficking), and as a 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)