Avani Sood is a Professor of Law at UC Berkeley School of Law.
Sood uses empirical methodologies, psychology, and legal analysis to study how decision makers form judgments about evidence, criminal liability, and punishment. Her research identifies where and why the legal system’s assumptions about how people operationalize criminal laws, theories, and procedures — such as the doctrine of criminal attempt, the harm principle, the exclusionary rule, and verdict format in jury trials — are at odds with socio-cognitive realities of human decision making.
Sood has additionally studied psychological motives underlying support for severe interrogation in the context of terrorism and has written in the areas of gender justice and international human rights law. Her work has been published in law reviews and peer-reviewed journals, including the Stanford Law Review, Virginia Law Review, Harvard Law Review Forum, Georgetown Law Journal, Annual Review of Law and Social Science, California Law Review, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, and Theoretical Inquiries in Law.
Sood holds a J.D. from Yale Law School, where she served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal, worked in the New Haven Legal Assistance Clinic and the Lowenstein Human Rights Law Clinic, and was awarded the Robert L. Bernstein Fellowship in International Human Rights. She holds an A.B. summa cum laude, an M.A., and a Ph.D. in Psychology from Princeton University, where she was awarded the Howard Crosby Warren Senior Prize, the Edward E. Jones Memorial Thesis Prize, the Center for Human Values Graduate Prize Fellowship, the Laurance S. Rockefeller Graduate Prize Fellowship, and the Fellowship of Woodrow Wilson Scholars.
Prior to entering academia, Sood served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Kimba M. Wood in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York; worked as a litigation associate at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP; and conducted fieldwork, research, and trainings on legal mechanisms for redressing large-scale women’s rights violations in India and Kenya, as a research fellow with the Center for Reproductive Rights. Sood has also worked at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP in New York, the National Center for Youth Law in Oakland, and the New York County District Attorney’s Office.
Sood is a co-founder of the Law and Society Association’s Collaborative Research Network on Law, Society, and Psychological Science. In addition, she is an Affiliate of UC Berkeley’s Institute of Personality and Social Research, Center for the Study of Law and Society, Institute of Governmental Studies, and Institute for South Asia Studies. She serves on dissertation committees of Ph.D. students in the Department of Psychology, the Goldman School of Public Policy, and the law school’s Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program.