Projects and Research Initiatives
Innovation & Growth
The Gruter Institute Program on Understanding Innovation fosters the interdisciplinary study of innovation and growth. The Institute’s goal is to bring together academics and practitioners across a wide spectrum of disciplines to build a systems-level theory of innovation and growth. With new insights about what constitutes a system receptive to innovation versus hostile to innovation, we are best equipped to positively effect specific legal regimes, economic policies, and business approaches that foster innovation and growth and advance global quality of life. The Program convenes select scholars and practitioners to 1. exchange relevant knowledge and questions within the diverse disciplines, 2. collaborate on the core questions at the heart of better understanding productive innovation, and 3. develop tangible outputs of publications, policy recommendations and the architecture of innovative institutions and legal regimes.
The Gruter Institute for Law and Behavioral Research is a partner in a new, innovative project to be housed at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Law Lab is a multidisciplinary research initiative and collaborative network of University, nonprofit and industry partners. Its mission is to investigate and harness the varied forces — evolutionary, social, psychological, neurological and economic — that shape the role of law and social norms as they enable cooperation, governance and entrepreneurial innovation. Through open observational and experimental web-based platforms and open source software, the Law Lab will develop new digital institutions to foster innovation and research tools to deepen our understanding of trust, transparency and human cooperation. We will bring a laboratory approach to legal scholarship and social science research, and build a body of knowledge, expertise and software technologies that will fundamentally transform law and entrepreneurial practice.
Click here to see the conferences.
Free Enterprise: Values In Action
This program is aimed at exploring the role of values in a free economic system. The program is an extensive one, and has included six conferences, a dedicated volume (Moral Markets: The Critical Role of Values in Free Enterprise) to be published by Princeton University Press, a popular book (The Mind of the Market) and two debates.
The goal of our investigation has been to develop a better description of Homo economicus and of modern, market-based economic systems of the kind sometimes referred to with the “free enterprise” label. There is a caricature of amoral self interest that is frequently advanced as a full portrait of human nature which we have sought to correct. In our view, the pay-offs from a market-based system require solving fundamental problems of cooperation and reliability. Values, and the legal and institutional frameworks which put them into action, are critical factors in solving these problems. Our goal has been to create an interdisciplinary and fully rigorous basis for a re-description of free enterprise in terms of values.
Our program has drawn on the latest developments in such diverse disciplines as management, economics, evolutionary behavioral science, neuroscience, business studies and law. Our participants have included many prominent scholars from these disciplines as well as business leaders. A full participant list appears below. The values explored have included reciprocity, promise keeping, commitment, fairness, and cooperation.
Law and Neuroscience
New discoveries in the brain sciences are reported almost weekly. Though the public is aware that new knowledge about the brain contains important information about human behavior, the relation of this knowledge to law is not widely appreciated. Not only is the Institute a leader in creating opportunities for legal scholars and neuroscientists to meet together and discuss possible applications, it has conducted experiments applying the latest techniques in neuroscience to the problems of law and justice. This research has included fMRI scanning projects aimed at better understanding moral decision making and legal rule applications, conducted at the University of London and Humboldt University in Berlin. Further neuroscientific work on such topics as interpersonal trust and intellectual property law is underway.
Law and Behavioral Biology
Applying the insights from behavioral biology to the study of law, economics and other social sciences is a core mission of the institute. Though much of the public is aware of knowledge from the behavioral sciences, the potential for using this knowledge to help understand law is not as widely appreciated. The Institute creates opportunities for legal scholars and evolutionary and other behavioral biologists to meet together and discuss applications. It also supports research aimed at shedding light from the behavioral sciences on problems of law and justice. Areas of specific focus includes property and intellectual property, conflict resolution, trust and exchange, fairness, punishment, and the sense of justice.
Economics and Business
There is a burgeoning interest in evolutionary and behavioral approaches to economics and business. The overlap of law and economics is well established. Business and other forms of human economic activity are major topics within the law, since law, together with informal rules, provide the “rules of the game” in which markets function. The Institute’s research in this area includes investigating: property and human behavior; cooperation and trust between individuals and within firms; behavioral building blocks of free enterprise (that is, what behavioral building blocks are necessary for a system of free enterprise to work effectively: e.g. trust, reciprocity, self-interest, and the effects of personal versus impersonal exchange on these various components); workplace behavior; risk and decision making; and the foundational expectations for commitment and reward which are at the heart of group activities.
The Gruter Institute for Law and Behavioral Research believes it is time to look once again at the interaction of the rules of intellectual property with the evolved psychology of human beings. In recent years, our understanding of human motivation, thought and behavior has been greatly enriched by the contributions of cognitive neuroscience and related fields. We believe that the emerging synthesis can provide newly fruitful starting points for advancing the study of the law and institutions of both property and intellectual property. The Gruter Institute co-sponsored a one-day workshop, on April 28, 2005 at the Center for Advanced Study of the Behavioral Sciences to explore these concerns, and addressed these concerns again in a conference co-sponsored by the Max Planck Institute for Intellectual Property in Munich, Germany in September 2006. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the task, we have invited diverse participants from many fields of law, science, industry and practice to participate in the initiative.
Research Initiative Consortium and Collaboration Partners: The Max Planck Institute for Intellectual Property, Competition and Tax Law (Munich, Germany), The Institute for Medical Psychology, University of Munich, Intellectual Property Institute (London, England), The Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience, University College London, The Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard Law School, The Dana Foundation.
The peaceable and just resolution of human conflicts is a central task of the law. While the court system and alternative dispute resolution structures exist to provide this function, there is widespread concern over how to improve these existing processes, providing more satisfactory and economically efficient means to the end. A better understanding of our behavior in initiating, conducting and resolving conflicts will be at the core of such improvements. The Gruter Institute and its Research Fellows are pursuing a number of initiatives in this field, ranging from the study of reconciliation in primates, hormone levels in litigators, and the economics of dispute resolution systems and their alternatives. The Institute has supported conferences and training programs on dispute resolution with such academic partners as Georgetown, Georgia State and the University of Tübingen.
Sense of Justice
Many biologists and legal scholars believe that the ability to distinguish between right and wrong is an innate capacity. For many years, the Institute has maintained a wide range of programs that examine our sense of justice. One initiative is aimed at its development in children- is this a process with critical phases, like language acquisition? What is the relation between the variables of the environment and our shared developmental program and the formation and content of a sense of justice? Another focus of research in this area is understanding how we learn legal rules, and how this compares to moral reasoning and the sense of justice. As part of this program, the Institute has conducted workshops with the University of Munich as well as research on early childhood development at Humboldt University in Berlin, and the University of Würzburg.