Seeing is Believing: The Anti-Inference Bias

34 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2012 Last revised: 15 Apr 2015

Eyal Zamir

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Faculty of Law

Ilana Ritov

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - School of Education

Doron Teichman

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Faculty of Law

Date Written: April 21, 2012

Abstract

A large body of studies suggests that people are reluctant to impose liability on the basis of circumstantial evidence alone, even when this evidence is more reliable than direct evidence. Current explanations for this pattern of behavior focus on factors such as the tendency of factfinders to assign low subjective probabilities to circumstantial evidence, the statistical nature of such evidence, and the fact that direct evidence can rule out with greater ease any competing factual theory regarding liability.

This article describes a set of four new experiments demonstrating that even when these factors are controlled for, the disinclination to impose liability based on non-direct evidence remains. For instance, people are much more willing to convict a driver of a speeding violation on the basis of a speed camera than on the basis of two cameras documenting the exact time a car passes by them — from which the driver’s speed in the pertinent section of the road is inferred. While these findings do not necessarily refute the existing theories, they indicate that these theories are incomplete and point to the existence of a deep-seated bias against basing liability on inferences — an anti-inference bias. The article dicusses the potential normative implications of the new findings.

Keywords: experimental legal studies, evidence law, circumstantial evidence, simulation heuristic, Wells effect

Suggested Citation

Zamir, Eyal and Ritov, Ilana and Teichman, Doron, Seeing is Believing: The Anti-Inference Bias (April 21, 2012). Indiana Law Journal, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1989561 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1989561

Eyal Zamir

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Faculty of Law ( email )

Mount Scopus, 91905
Israel
+972 2 582 3845 (Phone)
+972 2 582 9002 (Fax)

Ilana Ritov

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - School of Education ( email )

Mt. Scopus
Jerusalem, 91905
Israel
+972 2 652 9929 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://pluto.huji.ac.il/~msiritov/ilana_ritov.htm

Doron Teichman (Contact Author)

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Faculty of Law ( email )

Mount Scopus, 91905
Israel

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