Project Summary

In recent decades, cognitive science has deeply changed our understanding of human reasoning and decision-making. As depicted by contemporary cognitive science, the human mind appears, first, as an intuition-driven device, making use of cognitive shortcuts (heuristics) which may easily lead to systematic cognitive distortions (biases); second, as an emotional device, whose apt reasoning and decision making, far from being the product of cool and disembodied cognition, relies on affective mechanisms grounded in the body. This picture is at odds with the methodology and approach still dominant within legal studies. In the mainstream self-narrative, adjudication is still regarded as the realm of dispassionate reason and argumentation, to be approached with the methods of an argumentative analysis, that doesn’t include a systematic and in-depth account of its psychological structure and mechanisms. As a result, they are not aware of the most common biases and distorting factors that lead reasoning and decision-making astray, the personal and environmental conditions that increase the probability of falling prey to such distortions, and the cognitive strategies that may reduce their impact. This is a serious gap in legal education.

The main objective of RECOGNISE was contributing to fill this gap, by (i) developing a training curriculum on legal reasoning and cognitive science targeted at newly graduated, post-graduates and Master students, PhD students, Post-doc researchers, teaching staff in Law Departments, as well as legal professionals; (ii) implementing a series of learning activities, specified below; (iii) realizing materials that could be used for such a training, including, in particular, an innovative book gathering contributions by experts both in legal theory and in cognitive science; (iv) disseminating these activities and materials among European academic institutions and promoting the inclusion of training inspired by our models.

In connection with these main objectives, we wanted to strengthen collaboration between European academic institutions on the topics of the project, thus contributing to establishing a new network of researchers working in the field.

To achieve our objectives, we implemented the following learning activities:

  • 2 Intensive Study Programs of 5 days each, one entirely online organized by the Un. of Ljubljana, and one in blended modality organized by the Un. of Palermo, both with the involvement of the local Bar Associations.
  • 4 teaching courses of 48 h: (a) Legal Reasoning and Cognitive Science, in English, at the University of Palermo (2021/22 and 2022/23); (b) Law and Cognitive Science, in Italian, at the University of Bologna (2021/22 and 2022/23).
  • 13 online RECOGNISE seminars, on the topics addressed by the project.
  • 1 Joint Staff Training aimed at allowing in-depth discussions among members of the project, and 3 events with invited teachers, within the frame of the courses held in Palermo and Bologna.

In addition, we implemented two multiplier events:

  • A public presentation to an international audience of the project and its outputs, which took place at Maastricht University.
  • An international conference on Law & Cognitive Science, organized in collaboration with the Future Law Lab, which gathered more than 30 speakers from various European countries.

The main outputs realized by the project are:

  • A Training Curriculum in Legal Reasoning and Cognitive Science, contained in a Manual freely accessible under an open license CC BY-NC. The training is divided into three formats: LLM teaching course (3-6 ects); Intensive Study Programs; video lectures.
  • An online Gold Open Access book titled Legal Reasoning and Cognitive Science: Topics and Perspectives, published in collaboration with the Scopus-indexed journal of legal theory “Diritto & Questioni pubbliche”. The book features 26 chapters by leading scholars both in legal philosophy and cognitive science. Chapters are original research papers, but they are also written in a clear style and are suitable for use as reading materials in higher education (LLM, PhD programs, etc.).
  • An e-learning course consisting of 15 independent video lectures, each supplemented by a self-evaluation test. All lectures (plus 2 samples) are freely accessible under an open license CC BY-NC-ND.

Additional results are:

  • 7 bibliographies on the topics of the project, plus various files containing slides of lectures and seminars, both freely accessible under an open license CC BY-NC.
  • A digital platform gathering all the above materials