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Deliberating about Dollars: The Severity Shift


David Schkade


University of California, San Diego

Cass R. Sunstein


Harvard Law School

Daniel Kahneman


Princeton University

February 2000

University of Chicago Law School, John M. Olin Law & Economics Working Paper No. 95

Abstract:     
How does jury deliberation affect the pre-deliberation judgments of individual jurors? In this paper we make progress on that question by reporting the results of a study of over 500 mock juries composed of over 3000 jury eligible citizens. Our principal finding is that with respect to dollars, deliberation produces a "severity shift," in which the jury's dollar verdict is systematically higher than that of the median of its jurors' predeliberation judgments. A "deliberation shift analysis" is introduced to measure the effect of deliberation. The severity shift is attributed to a "rhetorical asymmetry," in which arguments for higher awards are more persuasive than arguments for lower awards. When judgments are measured not in terms of dollars but on a rating scale of punishment severity, deliberation increased high ratings and decreased low ratings. We also find that deliberation does not alleviate the problem of erratic and unpredictable individual dollar awards, but in fact exacerbates it. Implications for punitive damage awards and deliberation generally are discussed.

Note: This paper is a substantial revision of Chicago LEC WP81, 'Are Juries Less Erratic than Individuals? Deliberation, Polarization, and Punitive Damages.'

Number of Pages in PDF File: 55

JEL Classification: C91, C92, K00

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Date posted: March 8, 2000  

Suggested Citation

Schkade, David and Sunstein, Cass R. and Kahneman, Daniel, Deliberating about Dollars: The Severity Shift (February 2000). University of Chicago Law School, John M. Olin Law & Economics Working Paper No. 95. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=214619 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.214619

Contact Information

David Schkade (Contact Author)
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
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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