Barbara A. Spellman

  • Professor of Law
  • Professor of Psychology

Barbara A. Spellman joined the faculty of the UVA Department of Psychology in 1997 and moved to the Law School in 2008.  She teaches evidence and various courses on the intersection of psychology and law (e.g., Behavioral Decision Making and Law; Empirical Methods in Law).

Spellman received her law degree from NYU in 1982. In the mid-1980s she practiced tax law at Chadbourne & Parke in New York City and worked as a writer and editor at Matthew Bender Company. She then moved to UCLA and earned a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology. Her psychology research focused on memory, analogical reasoning and causal reasoning. Now she writes about judicial reasoning, forensics and the replication crisis in science.

Spellman has published in both psychology journals and law reviews. She edited a special issue of Psychonomic Bulletin & Review (2010) on emerging trends in psychology and law research. From 2011-15 she served as editor-in-chief of Perspectives on Psychological Science. Her book (with Michael Saks), The Psychological Foundations of Evidence Law, was published in 2016.

Scholarship Profile: How Psychological Assumptions Permeate Law (Virginia Journal 2017)


  • Ph.D.
    University of California at Los Angeles
  • J.D.
    New York University School of Law
  • B.A.
    Wesleyan University


Memory and the Law (with Charles S. Weaver), in Handbook of Human Memory - Volume II: Applications, Oxford University Press (2023).
Precedent and Similarity (with Frederick Schauer), in Philosophical Foundations of Precedent, Oxford University Press (2023).

Works in Progress


The Psychological Foundations of Evidence Law (with Michael J. Saks), NYU Press (2016).
Intelligence Analysis for Tomorrow: Advances from the Behavioral and Social Sciences (edited with Cherie Chauvin & Baruch Fischhoff), National Academies Press (2011).
Current Directions in Cognitive Science: Readings from the American Psychological Society (edited with Daniel T. Willingham), Pearson Prentice Hall (2005).

Book Chapters

Open Science (with Katherine S. Corker & Elizabeth A. Gilbert), in Stevens’ Handbook of Experimental Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, Volume 5, Methodology, John Wiley & Sons, 729 (2018).
Psychologists in Law Schools (with Jennifer K. Robbennolt), in Career Paths in Psychology: Where Your Degree Can Take You, American Psychological Association (3 ed. 2017).
Law and Social Cognition (with Frederick Schauer), in The Oxford Handbook of Social Cognition, Oxford University Press, 829–850 (2013).
Legal Reasoning (with Frederick Schauer), in Oxford Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning, Oxford University Press, 719–735 (2012).
Individual Reasoning, in Intelligence Analysis: Behavioral and Social Scientific Foundations, National Academies Press, 117–141 (2011).
Law and Psychology: Problems and Promise, in Law and Method, Mohr Siebeck, 109–131 (2011).
Relying on Other People’s Metamemory (with Margaret J. Scalia & Elizabeth R. Tenney), in Successful Remembering and Successful Forgetting: A Festschrift in Honor of Robert A. Bjork, Psychology Press, 387–407 (2011).
Judges, Expertise, and Analogy, in The Psychology of Judicial Decision Making, Oxford University Press, 149–163 (2010).
The Relation between Counterfactual and Causal Reasoning (with A.P. Kincannon & S.J. Stose), in The Psychology of Counterfactual Thinking, Routledge, 43 (2005).
Psychology of Causal Reasoning (with D. R. Mandel), in Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science, Nature Publishing Group (2003).
Conditionalizing Causality, in Causal Learning, Academic Press, 167–206 (1996).

Articles & Reviews

Challenges to reasoning in forensic science decisions (with Heidi Eldridge & Paul Bieber), 4 Forensic Science International: Synergy 1–18 (2022).
Overview of special issue: Human factors in forensic science practice sourcebook (with Heidi Eldridge et al.), 4 Forensic Science International: Synergy 1–3 (2022).
Psychological Science in the Wake of COVID-19: Social, Methodological, and Metascientific Considerations (with Daniel L. Rosenfeld et al.), 17 Perspectives on Psychological Science 311–333 (2021).
The Future of Women in Psychological Science (with J. Gruber et al.), 16 Perspectives on Psychological Science 483–516 (2021).
In defense of weird hypotheticals, 2 Quaestio Facti: International Journal on Evidential Legal Reasoning 325–327 (2021).
Probabilistic Causation in the Law (with Frederick Schauer), 176 Journal of Institutional & Theoretical Economics 4–17 (2020).
Communicating Forensic Evidence: Lessons from Psychological Science, 48 Seton Hall Law Review 827–840 (2018).
What the Replication Reformation Wrought (with Daniel Kahneman), 41 Behavior & Brain Science e149 (2018).
Analogy, Expertise, and Experience (with Frederick Schauer), 84 University of Chicago Law Review 249–268 (2017).
Calibrating Legal Judgments (with Frederick Schauer), 9 Journal of Legal Analysis 125–151 (2017).
Psychology: Science in Spite of Itself (reviewing Chris Chambers, The Seven Deadly Sins of Psychology: A Manifesto for Reforming the Culture of Scientific Practice) 544 Nature 414–415 (2017).
Combating Biased Decisionmaking and Promoting Justice and Equal Treatment (with Hayley Cleary et al.), 2 Behavioral Science & Policy 79–87 (2016).
A Short (Personal) Future History of Revolution 2.0, 10 Perspectives on Psychological Science 886–889 (2015).
Buy the Book: Review of The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker (reviewing Steven Pinker, The Sense of Style) 10 Perspectives on Psychological Science 357–358 (2015).
Counterfactuals, Control, and Causation: Why Knowledgeable People Get Blamed More (with Elizabeth Gilbert, Christopher Holland & Elizabeth R. Tenney), 41 Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin 643–658 (2015).
Memos to the President from a “Council of Psychological Science Advisers” (with Michael I. Norton & Bethany A. Teachman), 10 Perspectives on Psychological Science 697–700 (2015).
Promoting an Open Research Culture (with George Alter et al.), 348 Science 1422–1425 (2015).
Blame, Cause, and Counterfactuals: The Inextricable Link (with Elizabeth Gilbert), 25 Psychological Inquiry 245–250 (2014).
Is Expert Evidence Really Different? (with Frederick Schauer), 89 Notre Dame Law Review 1–26 (2013).
Stereotypic Crimes: How Group Crime Associations Affect Memory and (Sometimes) Verdicts and Sentencing (with Jeanine L. Skorinko), 8 Victims & Offenders 278–307 (2013).
There Is No Such Thing as Replication but We Should Do It Anyway, 27 European Journal of Personality 136–137 (2013).
Accuracy, Confidence, and Calibration: How Young Children and Adults Assess Credibility (with Vikram K. Jaswal et al.), 47 Developmental Psychology 1065–1077 (2011).
Complex Social Consequences of Self Knowledge (with Elizabeth R. Tenney), 2 Social Psychology & Personality Science 343–350 (2011).
Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6-7 Perspectives on Psychological Science (2011).
An Editorial Overview in Special Issue: Emerging Trends in Psychology and Law Research (with Thomas A. Busey), 17 Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 141–142 (2010).
Cognitive “Category Based Induction” Research and Social “Persuasion” Research Are Each about What Makes Arguments Believable: A Tale of Two Literatures (with Jennifer A. Joy-Gaba & Kate A. Ranganath), 5 Perspectives on Psychological Science 115–122 (2010).
Credible Testimony In and Out of Court (with Elizabeth R. Tenney), 17 Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 168–173 (2010).
The Socio-Ecological Approach Turns Variance among Populations from a Liability to an Asset (with Selin Kesebir & Shigehiro Oishi), 33 Behavioral & Brain Science 96–97 (2010).
Artists’ Moral Rights and the Psychology of Ownership (with Frederick Schauer), 83 Tulsa Law Review 661–678 (2009).
Embodied Rationality (with Simone Schnall), 35 Queen’s Law Journal 117–164 (2009).
Unpacking the Doubt in “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt”: Plausible Alternative Stories Increase Not Guilty Verdicts (with Haley M. Cleary & Elizabeth R. Tenney), 31 Basic & Applied Social Psychology 1–8 (2009).
The benefits of knowing what you know (and what you don’t): How calibration affects credibility (with Robert J. MacCoun & Elizabeth R. Tenney), 44 Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (2008).
On the relation between counterfactual and causal reasoning (with Dieynaba G. Ndiaye), 30 Behavioral and Brain Sciences 466–467 (2007).
Calibration Trumps Confidence as a Basis for Witness Credibility (with Reid Hastie, Robert J. MacCoun & Elizabeth R. Tenney), 18 Psychological Science 46 (2007).
On the Supposed Expertise of Judges in Evaluating Evidence, 156 University of Pennsylvania Law Review PENNumbra 1–9 (2007).
Discounting and Conditionalization: Dissociable Cognitive Processes in Human Causal Inference (with Kelly M. Goedert & Jennifer Harsch), 16 Psychological Science 590–595 (2005).
Sentencing Decisions: Matching the Decisionmaker to the Decision Nature (with Paul H. Robinson), 105 Columbia Law Review 1124–1161 (2005).
Forgetting by remembering: Stereotype inhibition through rehearsal of alternative aspects of identity (with Elizabeth W Dunn), 39 Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 420–433 (2003).
Analogical priming via semantic relations (with Keith J. Holyoak & Robert G. Morrison), 29 Memory and Cognition 383–393 (2001).
How two causes are different from one: The use of (un)conditional information in Simpson's paradox (with Jessica M. Logan & Christy M. Price), 29 Memory and Cognition 193–208 (2001).
When Possibility Informs Reality: Counterfactual Thinking as a Cue to Causality (with D. R. Mandel), 8 Current Directions in Psychological Science 120–123 (1999).
Hypothesis Testing: Strategy Selection for Generalizing Versus Limiting Hypotheses (with Alejandro López & Edward E. Smith), 5 Thinking & Reasoning 67–91 (1999).
Crediting causality, 126 Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 323–348 (1997).
Pragmatics in Analogical Mapping (with Keith J. Holyoak), 31 Cognitive Psychology 307–346 (1996).
On the status of inhibitory mechanisms in cognition: Memory retrieval as a model case (with Michael C. Anderson), 102 Psychological Review 68–100 (1995).
Thinking, 44 Annual Review of Psychology 265–315 (1993).
A Coherence Model of Cognitive Consistency: Dynamics of Attitude Change During the Persian Gulf War (with Keith J. Holyoak & Jodie B. Ullman), 49 Journal of Social Issues 147–165 (1993).
When Predictions Create Reality: Judgments of Learning May Alter What They Are Intended to Assess (with Robert A. Bjork), 3 Psychological Science 315–317 (1992).
If Saddam is Hitler then who is George Bush? Analogical mapping between systems of social roles (with Keith J. Holyoak), 62 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 913–933 (1992).

Op-Eds, Blogs, Shorter Works

A Different Kind of Scientific Revolution, New Atlantis 46–50 (2016).
"The Other Dude Did It!": A Test of the Alternative Explanation Defense (with Hayley M. Cleary & Elizabeth R. Tenney), Jury Expert 37–39 (July, 2009).

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