Barbara A. Spellman

  • Professor of Law

Barbara Spellman joined the UVA faculty in the psychology department in 1997 and the Law School in 2008, where she now teaches full-time as a professor of law. She teaches evidence and various courses on the intersection of psychology and law (e.g., Empirical Methods in Law, Psychology of the Deciders).

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. Spellman then studied cognitive psychology at UCLA. Her research focused mostly on memory, analogical reasoning and causal reasoning. Her dissertation was titled "The Construction of Causal Explanations."

Spellman has published in both psychology journals and law reviews. She has edited a special issue of Psychonomic Bulletin & Review (2010) on emerging trends in psychology and law research. From 2011-16 she served as editor-in-chief of Perspectives on Psychological Science.

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

Books and Edited Volumes

The Psychological Foundations of Evidence Law (with Michael J. Saks) (New York University Press, 2016).

8 Perspectives on Psychological Science (editor) (Association for Psychological Science, 2011-15).

Committee on Behavioral and Social Science Research to Improve Intelligence Analysis for National Security, Intelligence Analysis for Tomorrow: Advances from the Behavioral and Social Sciences (committee member) (National Academies Press, 2011).

"Special Issue: Emerging Trends in Psychology and Law Research" (editor with Thomas A. Busey), 17 Psychonomic Bull. & Rev. 141 (2010).

Current Directions in Cognitive Science: Readings from the American Psychological Society (with D.T. Willingham, D. T. eds. (Pearson Education / Prentice Hall 2005).

Articles and Chapters

“Open Science” (with Elizabeth A. Gilbert and Katherine S. Corker), in John Wixted, ed., Stevens’ Handbook of Experimental Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, Volume V: Methodology (Wiley, forthcoming).

“Analogy, Expertise, and Experience” (with Frederick Schauer), 84 U. Chi. L. Rev. 249 (2017).

"Science in Spite of Itself,"  Book Review of Chris Chambers, The Seven Deadly Sins of Psychology: A Manifesto for Reforming the Culture of Scientific Practice, 544 Nature at 414 (April 27, 2017). 

“Psychologists in Law Schools” (with Jennifer K. Robbennolt), in Robert J. Sternberg, ed., Career Paths in Psychology: Where Your Degree Can Take You 87 (American Psychological Association, 3d ed. 2017).

“A Different Kind of Scientific Revolution,” New Atlantis, Spring/Summer 2016, at 46.

“Combating Biased Decisionmaking and Promoting Justice and Equal Treatment” (with others), 2(2) Behav. Sci. & Pol’y 79 (2016).

“Buy the Book: Review of The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker,” 10 Perspectives on Psychol. Sci. 357 (2015).

“Counterfactuals, Control, and Causation: Why Knowledgeable People Get Blamed More” (with others), 41 Personality & Soc. Psychol. Bull. 643 (2015).

“Memos to the President from a ‘Council of Psychological Science Advisers’ ” (with Bethany A. Teachman and Michael I. Norton), 10 Perspectives on Psychol. Sci. 697 (2015).

“Promoting an Open Research Culture” (with others), 348 Science 1422 (2015).

“A Short (Personal) Future History of Revolution 2.0,” 10 Perspectives on Psychol. Sci. 886 (2015).

"Calibrating Legal Judgments" (with Frederick Schauer)

"Beyond Instructions to Disregard: When Objections Backfire and Interruptions Distract" (with Molly J. Walker Wilson and Rachel M. York)

“Blame, Cause, and Counterfactuals: The Inextricable Link” (with Elizabeth A. Gilbert), 25 Psychol. Inquiry 245 (2014).

“Law and Social Cognition” (with Frederick Schauer), in Donal E. Carlston, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Social Cognition 829 (Oxford University Press 2014).

"Immorality or Abnormality: What's to Blame for Increasing Blame?" (with Elizabeth A. Gilbert), Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2014-31 (2013).

"Law and Social Cognition," (with Frederick Schauer), Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2012-10 (2012).

"Is Expert Evidence Really Different?" (with Frederick Schauer), 89 Notre Dame L. Rev. 1 (2013).
SSRN | HeinOnline (PDF)

“Stereotypic Crimes: How Group-Crime Associations Affect Memory and (Sometimes) Verdicts and Sentencing” (with Jeanine L. Skorinko), 8 Victims & Offenders 278 (2013).

“Legal Reasoning” (with Frederick Schauer), in Keith J. Holyoak & Robert G. Morrison, eds., Oxford Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning 719 (Oxford University Press, 2012).

“Accuracy, Confidence, and Calibration: How Young Children and Adults Assess Credibility” (with others), 47 Developmental Psychol. 1065 (2011).

“Complex Social Consequences of Self-Knowledge” (with Elizabeth R. Tenney), 2 Soc. Psychol. & Personality Sci. 343 (2011).

“Individual Reasoning,” in Baruch Fischhoff & Cherie Chauvin, eds., Intelligence Analysis: Behavioral and Social Scientific Foundations 117 (National Academies Press, 2011).

Intelligence Analysis for Tomorrow: Advances from the Behavioral and Social Sciences (contributor) (National Academies Press, 2011).

“Law and Psychology: Problems and Promise,” in Bart van Klink & Sanne Taekema, eds., Law and Method 109 (Mohr Siebeck, 2011).

6 Perspectives on Psychological Science (2011) (editor).

“Relying on Other People’s Metamemory” (with Elizabeth R. Tenney and Margaret J. Scalia), in Aaron S. Benjamin, ed., Successful Remembering and Successful Forgetting: A Festschrift in Honor of Robert A. Bjork 387 (Psychology Press, 2011).

"Credibility In and Out of Court" (with E. R. Tenney), 17 Psychonomic Bulletin & Rev. 168 (2010).

"Cognitive 'Category-based Induction' Research and Social 'Persuasion' Research are Each about What Makes Arguments Believable: A Tale of Two Literatures" (with J. A. Joy-Gaba and K. A. Ranganath) 5 Perspectives on Psychological Science 115 (2010).

"Credible Testimony In and Out of Court (with Elizabeth R. Tenney), 17 Psychonomic Bull & Rev. 168 (2010).

"Judges, Expertise and Analogy" in D. Klein & G. Mitchell (eds.), The Psychology of Judicial Decision Making, 49 (Oxford University Press 2010).

"The Socio-Ecological Approach Turns Variance among Populations from a Liability to an Asset" (with Selin Kesebir andd Shigehiro Oishi), 33 Behav. & Brain Sci. 96 (2010).

"Artists’ Moral Rights and the Psychology of Ownership" (with F. Schauer), 83 Tul. L. Rev. 661 (2009).
HeinOnline (PDF)

“Embodied Rationality” (with Simone Schnall), 35 Queen’s L.J. 117 (2009).
HeinOnline (PDF)

“Unpacking the Doubt in ‘Beyond a Reasonable Doubt’: Plausible Alternative Stories Increase Not Guilty Verdicts” (with Elizabeth R. Tenney and Haley M. D. Cleary), 31 Basic & Applied Soc. Psychol. 1 (2009).

"The Benefits of Knowing What You Know (and What You Don’t): How Calibration Affects Credibility" (with E. R. Tenney and R.J. MacCoun), 44 J. Experimental Soc. Psychol. 1368 (2008).

"The Relation between Counterfactual and Causal Reasoning" (with D. G. Ndiaye), 30 Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 466 (2007).

"On the Supposed Expertise of Judges in Evaluating Evidence," 157 U. Penn. L. Rev. 1 (2007).

"Calibration Trumps Confidence as the Basis for Witness Credibility" (with E. R. Tenney, R. J. MacCoun and R. Hastie), 18 Psychological Science 46 (2007). (Editor’s Choice for “Highlights of the Recent Literature” in Science, 315, 574, 2 Feb 2007.)

"Discounting and Conditionalization: Dissociable Cognitive Processes in Human Causal Inference" (with K. M. Goedert and J. Harsch), 16 Psychological Science 590 (2005).

"The Relation between Counterfactual and Causal Reasoning" (with A. Kincannon and S. Stose) in D. R. Mandel, D. J. Hilton, and P. Catellani (eds.), The Psychology of Counterfactual Thinking 43 (Routledge Research 2005).

"Sentencing Decisions: Matching the Decisionmaker to the Decision Nature" (with P.H. Robinson), 105 Columbia L. Rev., 1124 (2005).
SSRN | HeinOnline (PDF)

"Reflections of a Recovering Lawyer: How Becoming a Cognitive Psychologist -- and (in Particular) Studying Analogical and Causal Reasoning -- Changed My Views about the Field of Psychology and Law" 79 Chicago-Kent L. Rev., 1187 (2004).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"Forgetting by Remembering: Stereotype Inhibition through Rehearsal of Alternative Aspects of Identity" (with E. W. Dunn), 39 J. Experimental Social Psychology, 420 (2003).

"Psychology of Causal Reasoning" (with D. R. Mandel), in L. Nadel (ed.), 1 Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science 461 (Nature Publishing Group 2003)

"The Relation between Counterfactual ('But for') and Causal Reasoning: Experimental Findings and Implications for Jurors' Decisions" (with A. Kincannon), 64 L. Contemporary Problems: Causation in L. Science 241 (2001).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"Analogical Priming via Semantic Relations" (with K. J. Holyoak and R. G. Morrison), 29 Memory & Cognition, 383 (2001).

"How Two Causes are Different from One: the Use of (un)Conditional Information in Simpson’s Paradox" (with C. M. Price and J. Logan), 29 Memory & Cognition 193 (2001).

"When Possibility Informs Reality: Counterfactual Thinking as a Cue to Causality" (with D. R. Mandel), 8 Current Directions in Psychological Science 120 (1999).

"Hypothesis Testing: Strategy Selection for Generalizing Versus Limiting Hypotheses" (with A. López and E. E. Smith), 5 Thinking & Reasoning, 67 (1999).

"Crediting Causality. 126 J. Experimental Psychology: General, 323 (1997).

"Pragmatics in Analogical Mapping" (with K. J. Holyoak), 31 Cognitive Psychology 307 (1996).

"Acting as Intuitive Scientists: Contingency Judgments are Made while Controlling for Alternative Potential Causes" 7 Psychological Science 337 (1996).

"Conditionalizing Causality" in D. R. Shanks, K. J. Holyoak, and D. L. Medin (eds.), The Psychology of Learning and Motivation, Vol. 34: Causal Learning 167 (Academic 1996).

"The Implicit Use of Base Rates in Experiential and Ecologically Valid Tasks," 19 Behavioral and Brain Sciences 38 (1996).

"On the Status of Inhibitory Mechanisms in Cognition: Memory Retrieval as a Model Case" (with M. C. Anderson), 102 Psychological Rev., 68 (1995).

"A Coherence Model of Cognitive Consistency: Dynamics of Attitude Change during the Persian Gulf War" (with J. B. Ullman and K. J.Holyoak), 49 J. Social Issues 147 (1993).

"Thinking" (with K. J. Holyoak), 44 Annual Review of Psychology 265 (1993).

"If Saddam is Hitler Then Who is George Bush? Analogical Mapping between Systems of Social Roles" (with K. J. Holyoak), 62 J. Personality and Social Psychology 913 (1992).

"When Predictions Create Reality: Judgments of Learning May Alter What They are Intended to Assess" (with R. A. Bjork), 3 Psychological Science 315 (1992).

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