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Tess Wilkinson-Ryan L'05

Professor of Law and Psychology

Tess Wilkinson-Ryan

Tess Wilkinson-Ryan studies the psychology of legal decision-making. Her research addresses the role of moral judgment in legal decision making, with a particular focus on private contracts and negotiations. Continue reading…

Articles and Book Chapters

Justifying Bad Deals, 169 U. PA. L. REV. 193 (2020).

Law and Psychology Grows Up, Goes Online, and Replicates, 15 J. EMPIRICAL LEG. STUD. 320 (2018) (with Krin Irvine and David A. Hoffman).

The Perverse Consequences of Disclosing Standard Terms, 103 CORNELL L. REV. 117 (2017).

The Knowledge Gap in Workplace Retirement Investing and the Role of Professional Advisors, 66 DUKE L. J. 633 (2016) (with Jill E. Fisch and Kristin Firth).

Incentives to Breach, 17 AM. L. & ECON. REV. 290 (2015).

Intuitive Formalism in Contract, 163 U. PA. L. REV. 2109 (2015)

The Common Sense of Contract Formation, 67 STAN. L. REV. 1269 (2015) (with David A. Hoffman).

Why Do Retail Investors Make Costly Mistakes? An Experiment on Mutual Fund Choice. 162 U. PA. L. REV. 605 (2014). (with Jill E. Fisch).

Judging Similarity, 100 IOWA L. REV. 267 (2014) (with Shyamkrishna Balganesh & Irina D. Manta).

A Psychological Account of Consent to Fine Print, 99 IOWA L. REV. 1745 (2014)

The Psychology of Contract Precautions, 80 U. CHI. L. REV. 395 (2013) (with David Hoffman)

Legal Promise and Psychological Contract, 47 WAKE FOREST L. REV. 843 (2012).

Transferring Trust: Reciprocity Norms and Assignment of Contract, 9 J. EMPIRICAL LEG. STUD. 511 (2012)

Breaching the Mortgage Contract: The Behavioral Economics of Strategic Default, 64 VAND. L. REV. 1547 (2011).

Do Liquidated Damages Encourage Efficient Breach? A Psychological Experiment, 108 MICH. L. REV. 633 (2010).

Breach is for Suckers, 63 VAND. L. REV. 1003 (2010) (with David Hoffman).

Fault in Contracts, A Psychological Approach, in FAULT IN AMERICAN CONTRACT LAW (Omri Ben-Shahar & Ariel Porat eds., Cambridge University Press, 2010).

Moral Judgment and Moral Heuristics in Breach of Contract, 6 J. EMPIRICAL LEGAL STUD. 405 (2009) (with Jonathan Baron).

The Effect of Conflicting Moral and Legal Rules on Bargaining Behavior: The Case of Divorce, 37 J. LEGAL STUD. 315 (2008) (with Jonathan Baron).

Negotiating Divorce: Gender and the Behavioral Economics of Divorce Bargaining, 26 LAW & INEQ. 109 (2008) (with Deborah Small).

Comment, Admitting Mental Health Evidence to Impeach the Credibility of a Sexual Assault Complainant, 153 U. PA. L. REV. 1373 (2005).

More publications can be found here.

Working Papers

Demand for Breach (April 20, 2014). U of Penn, Inst for Law & Econ Research Paper No. 14-19. (forthcoming)
[View Document]

Fee Salience in Retirement Investment Choices (with Jill Fisch). (forthcoming)

The Sucker Norm: Betrayal, Humiliation, and Retaliation in Economic Behavior. (forthcoming)

Research Areas

  • Contract Law
  • Negotiation
  • Family Law
  • Experimental Economics
  • Moral Judgment


Penn Law – Assistant Professor of Law (2010- ); George Sharswood Fellow in Law and Psychology, Lecturer in Law (2008-10)

University of Pennsylvania College of Arts & Sciences – Graduate Fellow, Teaching Assistant (2005-08)

Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer & Nelson, Portland, Maine – Summer Associate (2004)

Education Law Center, Philadelphia – Summer Intern (2003)


  • Contracts
  • Psychological Analysis of Legal Decision-Making
  • Gender, Psychology, and Law

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