Employment Discrimination Law and Industrial Psychology: Social Science as Social Authority and the Co-Production of Law and Science


Robin Stryker (rstryker@email.arizona.edu) is a professor of sociology, affiliated professor of law, Earl H. Carroll Magellan Circle Fellow (2010-11), and research director, National Institute for Civil Discourse at the University of Arizona. National Science Foundation Grant #SES-0514700 and a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship to Stryker supported this research. The research benefitted from Stryker's participation in a research group entitled “Social Science Perspectives on Employment Discrimination in Organizations,” which is part of the Discrimination Research Group. The DRG is a joint effort funded by the American Bar Foundation, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the Ford Foundation (Grant #1045-0189). Previous versions of this article were presented at the Conference on the Discoveries of the Discrimination Research Group, Stanford Law School, November 7-8, 2008, the Conference on Law and Regulation of Economic Activity, École normale supérieure de Cachan, Cachan, France, October 2-3, 2008, and the American Sociological Association, Atlanta, August 14-17, 2010. We thank conference participants, and also Mary Driscoll, Barry Goldstein, Mark Bendick, Lauren Edelman, Joshua Guetzkow, and Sandra Kalev for their constructive comments.

Danielle Docka-Filipek (dock0069@umn.edu) is a PhD student working on her dissertation at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Pamela Wald (wald0137@umn.edu) received her doctorate from the University of Minnesota (2008) and is an Institutional Research Analyst at Saint Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri.


This article combines Monahan and Walker's classification of social facts, social authority, and social frameworks with political-institutionalism's view of law and science as competing institutional logics to explain how, and with what consequences, employment discrimination law and industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology became co-produced. When social science is incorporated into enforcement of legislative law as social authority—rationale for judicial rule making—law's institutional logic of relying on precedent and reasoning by analogy ensures that social science will have ongoing influence on law's development. By helping set research agendas and providing new professional opportunities, institutionalized legal doctrine shapes social science knowledge. But because of differences in institutional logic, wherein legal cumulation is backward looking whereas scientific cumulation is forward looking, co-production of law and science may produce institutional mismatch between legal doctrine and scientific knowledge.