Not only does Wilson pursue her own interdisciplinary scholarship combining psychology and law, she also serves as the co-director of the new Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Law. As co-director of the Center, Wilson focuses on developing and highlighting the interdisciplinary scholarship taking place at SLU LAW.
In her own research, Wilson uses her Ph.D. in social psychology to examine legal structures and policy choices in order to determine whether they are achieving their anticipated goals. “Our laws are based upon our intuitive notions about how human behave,” says Wilson. “What I’m really interested in is using empirical psychological data to discern how law and policy actually shape human behavior.”
Some of Wilson’s current scholarship focuses on how the public perceives and responds to potential risks. Decisions about risk have been made by law and policy makers with substantial input by experts in relevant fields, often with very little consideration for preferences of stake holders. To the extent that the public weighs in on risk decisions, it tends to be indirect, unsystematic, and post-hoc, usually when political actors succumb to pressure from disgruntled members of the public. Wilson argues that a clear ex ante understanding of how the public views risk will lead to policy decisions that better reflect legitimate risk preference of members of society.
Recently, Wilson has also written on the relevance of behavioral science to campaign finance law. In particular, the 2010 Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, made it permissible for corporations to spend virtually unlimited amounts of money to promote or oppose candidates and issues. Wilson has drawn on empirical psychological research to argue that large sums of money from corporate treasuries have the potential to systematically distort how constituents understand issues.
About the new Center, Wilson says, "The extent to which our faculty has expertise and education at the highest level in other fields is really quite remarkable. Many members of our faculty not only understand how to read and interpret empirical research, but they have conducted empirical studies themselves.” She notes that because so much of the scholarship being produced at SLU Law uses insights from two, three or more disciplines—an interdisciplinary center was a natural extension of the work the faculty are already doing. “A major goal of the center is to increase collaboration between our faculty and faculty outside the law school.” Wilson says, adding, “Another goal is to give our faculty as many tools as possible to do interdisciplinary scholarship. Finally, we hope that CISL will be a resource to channel students’ interests and encouraging the faculty to bring their interdisciplinary work into the classroom."