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Are Juries Less Erratic than Individuals? Deliberation, Polarization, and Punitive Damages


David Schkade


University of California, San Diego

Cass R. Sunstein


Harvard Law School

Daniel Kahneman


Princeton University

September 1999

University of Chicago Law School, John M. Olin Law & Economics Working Paper No. 81

Abstract:     
How does jury deliberation affect the pre-deliberation judgments of individual jurors? Do deliberating juries reduce or eliminate the erratic and unpredictable punitive damage awards that have been observed with individual jurors? In this paper we make progress on these two questions, in part by reporting the results of a study of over 500 mock juries composed of over 3000 jury eligible citizens. Our principal finding is that juries did not produce less erratic and more predictable awards than individuals, but actually made the problem worse, by making large awards much larger and small awards smaller still, even for the same case. Thus, a key effect of deliberation is often to polarize individual judgments, a pattern that has been found in many other group decision making contexts. This finding of polarization--the first of its kind in the particular context of punitive damage awards--has important implications for jury awards involving both punitive and compensatory damages, and raises questions about the common belief that groups, and in particular juries, generally make better decisions than individuals.

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Date posted: August 26, 1999  

Suggested Citation

Schkade, David and Sunstein, Cass R. and Kahneman, Daniel, Are Juries Less Erratic than Individuals? Deliberation, Polarization, and Punitive Damages (September 1999). University of Chicago Law School, John M. Olin Law & Economics Working Paper No. 81. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=177368 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.177368

Contact Information

David Schkade
University of California, San Diego ( email )
Rady School of Management
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093
United States
858-822-5933 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://management.ucsd.edu/cms/showcontent.aspx?ContentID=89
Cass R. Sunstein (Contact Author)
Harvard Law School ( email )
1575 Massachusetts Ave
Areeda Hall 225
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-2291 (Phone)
Daniel Kahneman
Princeton University ( email )
Department of Psychology 3-2-1 Green Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544
United States
609-258-2280 (Phone)
609-258-2809 (Fax)
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