MHS is an innovative multidisciplinary center that studies the social dimensions of health and illness with the aim of fostering dialogue across disciplinary boundaries. To support that mission, it brings together a diverse group of faculty whose research and teaching explores medicine and science in a wide array of contexts.
Professor Maroney’s research takes a similarly interdisciplinary tack; she explores how cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience can illuminate critical issues in law. Maroney's current work examines the role of emotion in judging. “Judges experience emotion in the course of their work, though the traditional party line in law is that they either do not or should not,” said Maroney. “In exploring that disconnect between rhetoric and reality, it occurred to me that what we really are asking judges to do is to regulate their work-related emotions. Affective psychology, on which I draw heavily in all my work, has a lot to say about how people can regulate their emotions most effectively. I realized that this research can be of use to judges.”
Applying the emotion-regulation literature to judging led Maroney to discover a promising cross-disciplinary synergy between law and medicine. Educators have in recent years realized that medical school—much like law school—has unwittingly trained students to suppress their emotions rather than helping them learn to recognize and work with them. Reform efforts in medicine, Maroney believes, could find productive parallels in law.
“Professor Maroney’s work is such a natural fit with MHS,” said MHS Director Jonathan Metzl, who holds the Frederick B. Rentschler II Chair of Sociology and Medicine, Health and Society. “Professional skill is enhanced, not diminished, by cultivating the whole person, including emotion. Her research has broad implications for the professional competence and personal well-being of judges and others in the legal profession, and has implications well beyond legal domains as well.”
Maroney’s secondary appointment in MHS will enhance cross-disciplinary collaboration on these issues within the Vanderbilt community, and particularly between MHS and the law school.