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Deliberating about Dollars: The Severity Shift

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

55 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2000  

David Schkade

University of California, San Diego

Cass R. Sunstein

Harvard Law School; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Daniel Kahneman

Princeton University

Date Written: February 2000

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.

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

JEL Classification: C91, C92, K00

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: https://ssrn.com/abstract=214619 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.214619

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)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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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