Decision Making and the Law: Truth Barriers
Jonathan J. Koehler
Northwestern University - School of Law
John B. Meixner
Northwestern University - School of Law; Northwestern University - Department of Psychology
February 13, 2013
Gideon Keren & George Wu, eds., Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Judgment and Decision Making, Forthcoming
Northwestern Law & Econ Research Paper No. 13-04
Reaching an accurate outcome is a central goal of the American trial. But structural features of the legal system, in combination with the cognitive shortcomings of legal actors, hinder the search for truth. Regarding the legal system, various rules and policies restrict decision makers’ access to evidence, violate the laws of probability, and limit the evidentiary concerns that may be considered on appeal. Regarding legal actors, informational deficits (particularly regarding scientific and statistical evidence) and cognitive biases of police investigators, witnesses (lay and expert), attorneys, judges, and jurors pose serious obstacles. We conclude by suggesting that research in judgment and decision making may hold the key to understanding legal decisions and increasing their accuracy.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 30
Keywords: decision-making, law, evidence, statistical evidence, jurors, judges, cognitive bias, heuristics, DNA
JEL Classification: K10, K19, K40, K49
Date posted: February 14, 2013 ; Last revised: March 3, 2013
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