Does Reason Writing Reduce Decision Bias? Experimental Evidence from Judges in China

55 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2017 Last revised: 23 Jul 2019

See all articles by John Zhuang Liu

John Zhuang Liu

The University of Hong Kong - University of Hong Kong; The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen

Date Written: January 5, 2018

Abstract

Anecdotal evidence and academic research show that judges’ subjective feelings toward litigants have undue influence on their judgments. This article suggests a simple debiasing procedure, namely, requiring judges to write their reasons before making a decision. I conduct experiments on incumbent Chinese judges to test its effectiveness. Study 1 uses a between-subjects design to explore the interaction between reason writing and a stimulus that induces a judge’s negative feeling toward a defendant. Judges who are required to write their reasons before they decide a case are significantly less affected by the stimulus than those who directly enter the decision-making stage. Study 2 provides evidence that a forced deliberation period achieves a similar debiasing effect. Study 3 studies the polar opposite of reason writing—the delegation of reason writing, which resembles the judge–law clerk delegation of opinion writing setting. I find that delegation serves to reinforce biases.

Keywords: reason writing, emotional judging, experiment

Suggested Citation

Liu, John Zhuang, Does Reason Writing Reduce Decision Bias? Experimental Evidence from Judges in China (January 5, 2018). Journal of Legal Studies 47(1), 2018, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2912693 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2912693

John Zhuang Liu (Contact Author)

The University of Hong Kong - University of Hong Kong ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong, Hong Kong
China

The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen ( email )

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