For the last sixty years, scholars and practitioners of international human rights have paid insufficient attention to the ground level social contexts in which human rights norms are imbued with or deprived of social meaning. During the same time period, social science insights have shown that social conditions can have a significant impact on human behavior. This Article is the first to investigate the far-ranging implications of behavioralism—especially behavioral insights about social influence—for the international human rights regime. It explores design implications for three broad components of the regime: the content, adjudication, and implementation of human rights. In addition, the Article addresses some of the advantages and limitations of the behavioral approach and outlines the rich but unexplored nexus of behavioralism, norms, and international law.

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2010

Notes/Citation Information

Harvard International Law Journal, Vol. 51, No. 1 (Winter 2010), 51-112