Using our Brains: What Cognitive Science and Social Psychology Teach us About Teaching Law Students to Make Ethical, Professionally Responsible, Choices

Document Type



Throughout our lives, below the level of our consciousness, each of us develops values, intuitions, expectations, and needs that powerfully affect both our perceptions and our judgments. Placed in situations in which we feel threatened, or which implicate our values, our brains, relying on those implicitly learned, emotionally weighted, memories, may react automatically, without reflection or the opportunity for reflective interdiction. We can "downshift," to primitive, self-protective problem solving techniques. Because these processes operate below the radar of our consciousness, automatic, "emotional" reaction, rather than thoughtful, reasoned analysis may drive our responses to stressful questions of ethics and professional responsibility.

Date of Authorship for this Version

January 2005


ethics, professional responsibility, teaching ethics, teaching professional responsibility