Owen D. Jones

New York Alumni Chancellor's Chair in Law
Professor of Biological Sciences
Director, MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience

Owen Jones’ work bridges law, biology and behavior. His scholarship deepens understandings of behaviors that law aims to regulate by integrating social science and life science perspectives. Professor Jones’ work, both empirical and theoretical, is published in scientific as well as legal venues. Holding joint academic appointments, he uses brain-imaging (fMRI), behavioral biology and behavioral economics to learn more about how the brain's varied operations affect behaviors relevant to law. With four grants from the MacArthur Foundation, totaling over 7.6 million dollars, Professor Jones designed, created and directs a national Research Network on Law and Neuroscience. The Network partners – for both brain-imaging experiments and conceptual work relevant to criminal justice – legal scholars and brain scientists at leading universities throughout the U.S. Most recently, for example, he and colleagues discovered the interactions of rational and emotional brain regions during punishment decisions, as well as the separate brain regions and activities involved in assessing harms, deciding mental states, integrating those two, and then choosing punishment amounts. Before joining the legal academy, he was a law clerk for Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and practiced law with the D.C. law firm Covington & Burling. Professor Jones received the 2014 Joe. B. Wyatt Distinguished University Professor Award, which annually honors one member of the Vanderbilt University faculty for accomplishments that bridge multiple academic disciplines and yield significant new knowledge from research. In 2015 Jones was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Selected Media Coverage of Scholarship

Research Interests

Law and behavioral sciences, law and behavioral biology, law and neuroscience, evolutionary analysis in law

Representative Publications

  • “Parsing the Behavioral and Brain Mechanisms of Third-Party Punishment,” 36 Journal of Neuroscience 9420 (2016) (with M. Ginther, R. Bonnie, M. Hoffman, F. Shen, K. Simons and R. Marois)
  • Law and Neuroscience (Aspen Publishers, 2014) (with J. Schall and F. Shen) (Excerpts) (Reviews)
  • "Law and Behavioral Biology," 105 Columbia Law Review 405 (2005) (with T.H. Goldsmith)
    Full Text | SSRN
  • "Intuitions of Punishment," 77 Chicago Law Review 1633 (2010) (with R. Kurzban)
    Full Text | SSRN
  • “Sorting Guilty Minds” 86 New York University Law Review 1306 (2011) (with F. Shen, M. Hoffman, J. Greene, R. Marois)
    Full Text | SSRN
  • "Time-Shifted Rationality and the Law of Law's Leverage: Behavioral Economics Meets Behavioral Biology," 95 Northwestern University Law Review 1141 (2001)
    Full Text | SSRN
  • "From Blame to Punishment: Disrupting Prefrontal Cortex Activity Reveals Norm Enforcement Mechanisms," 87 Neuron 1 (2015) (with J. Buckholtz, J. Martin, M. Treadway, K. Jan, D. Zald, R. Marois)
    Full Text | WWW
  • “The Language of Mens Rea,” 67 Vanderbilt Law Review 1327 (2014) (with M. Ginther, F. Shen, K. Simons, M. Hoffman and R. Bonnie)
    Full Text | SSRN
  • "The Neural Correlates of Third-Party Punishment," 60 Neuron 930 (Dec. 10, 2008) (with J. Buckholtz, C. Asplund, P. Dux, D. Zald, J. Gore, and R. Marois) [Read coverage of this article in the Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, and the New York Times Sunday Magazine]
    Full Text | SSRN
  • "Evolution and the Expression of Biases: Situational Value Changes the Endowment Effect in Chimpanzees," 33 Evolution & Human Behavior 378 (2012) (with S. Brosnan, M. Gardner, S. Lambeth and S. Schapiro)
    Full Text | SSRN