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Experimental Psychology on Judgments - Dictionary of Arguments

Parisi I 109
Judgments/Experimental Psychology/Wilkinson-Ryan: In Bornstein, Rung, and Miller (2002)(1), subjects were shown materials from a hypothetical medical malpractice case in which a patient was misdiagnosed and suffered and survived a heart attack. The experimental manipulation was the information that subjects had about the physician’s level of remorse. In the control condition, there was no remorse information. In the remorseless condition, the physician expressed lack of remorse and indeed denied culpability. In the remorse condition, the physician made no statements of admission or denial but said he was “very sorry” that the patient had suffered. The researchers also included an
Parisi I 110
“early remorse” condition in which the same expression of remorse came at trial but also pre-trial, closer to the time of the original event. The dependent variable was the damages award. Oddly, despite finding remorseful wrongdoers more favorable overall, when the defendant apologized he was often assessed with greater overall damages. One surprisingly complex factor that affects judgments of interpersonal harms is time.
Time factor: Perhaps the most well-known effect of the passage of time on judgments of culpability is the hindsight bias. Most cases (though not all) are decided after it is known that a particular act or omission resulted in a harm, though it may not have been clear to the actors or, indeed, inevitable at the time of the act. One thing that psychologists have shown in a number of contexts is that it is very hard to ignore the fact of an outcome once we know it. Two distinct phenomena bear on these judgments.
Biases: The first is outcome bias. Individuals evaluating decisions or decision-making processes tend to take into account information they have about a decision’s outcome even when they explicitly acknowledge that the evaluation of the decision itself is conceptually separate from the outcome (Baron and Hershey, 1988)(2). Perhaps more well known is the related hindsight bias. Hindsight bias research shows that people often integrate their knowledge of a particular result in their evaluation of the ex ante probability of that result—for example, because something happened, we tend to think that it was clearly likely to happen.
Estimations: In Hastie, Schkade, and Payne (1999)(3), subjects were asked to consider the case of a hazardous section of railroad that could (or did) lead to a train derailment. Subjects in the hindsight condition, told that a train had indeed derailed and caused extensive ecological harm, were enormously affected by their knowledge. Learning of the derailment doubled the likelihood that a subject would say that the railroad’s request to continue operations should be denied, from 33% to 67%. The average estimate of the probability of a serious accident was 34% in the foresight condition and 59% in the hindsight condition.
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Time factor: Burns, Caruso, and Bartels (2012)(4) found that the same behavior is judged as more intentional when we learn that it will be done in the future than when we know it has been done in the past. In one study, the researchers simply asked subjects to think about misreporting of taxes. Half of the subjects were asked about tax misreporting in early April, and half two weeks later—after the April 15 tax deadline had passed. Participants were simply asked to estimate the percentage of intentional misreporting within the general pool of misreporters. They thought future misreporting was more intentional, and should be punished more harshly, than past misreporting. >Cognitive biases/Economic theories.


1. Bornstein, Brian H., Lahna M. Rung, and Monica K. Miller (2002). “The Effects Of Defendant Remorse on Mock Juror Decisions in a Malpractice Case.” Behavioral Sciences and the Law 20: 393–409.
2. Baron, Jonathan and John C. Hershey (1988). “Outcome Bias in Decision Evaluation.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 54: 569–579.
3. Hastie, Reid, David Schkade, and John Payne (1999). “Juror Judgments in Civil Cases: Hindsight Effects on Judgments of Liability for Punitive Damages.” Law and Human Behavior 23: 597–614.
4. Burns, Zachary C., Eugene M. Caruso, and Daniel M. Bartels (2012). “Predicting Premeditation: Future Behavior is Seen as More Intentional Than Past Behavior.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 141: 227–232.


Wilkinson-Ryan, Tess. „Experimental Psychology and the Law“. In: Parisi, Francesco (ed) (2017). The Oxford Handbook of Law and Economics. Vol 1: Methodology and Concepts. NY: Oxford University Press


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The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Experimental Psychology
Parisi I
Francesco Parisi (Ed)
The Oxford Handbook of Law and Economics: Volume 1: Methodology and Concepts New York 2017


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2021-05-13
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