Minding the Court: Enhancing the Decision-Making Process
10 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2017
Date Written: February 2013
A compelling and growing body of research from the fields of cognitive psychology and neuroscience provides important insights about how we process information and make decisions. This research has great potential significance for judges, who spend much of their time making decisions of great importance to others. For most judges, this research literature is not part of their judicial education. This article reviews cutting edge research about decision making and discusses its implications for helping judges and those who work with them produce fair processes and just outcomes. It builds on a 2007 American Judges Association paper that encouraged judges to incorporate the principles of procedural justice (see side bar) to help ensure a decision-making process deemed fair by litigants. Procedural fairness increases compliance with court orders and is critical to positive public perceptions of the court system. Implementing procedural-justice principles in the courtroom demands the judge’s “mindful” or conscious focus and attention. Understanding how the brain processes information and the various factors that can influence decisions and courtroom behaviors is a first step to practicing more mindful decision making that is consistent with the principles of procedural justice.
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