Implicit Egoism in Sentencing Decisions: First Letter Name Effects with Randomly Assigned Defendants

TSE Working Paper No. 16-726

22 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2017 Last revised: 31 May 2017

See all articles by Daniel L. Chen

Daniel L. Chen

Directeur de Recherche, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Toulouse School of Economics, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, University of Toulouse Capitole, Toulouse, France

Date Written: March 3, 2017

Abstract

Implicit egotism — in particular, unconscious associations that individuals have with others who share their names or first initials — is a mainstay of modern psychology textbooks. Using unique data on 48,988 randomly assigned defendants from 1988-1999, we find that judges assign 8% longer sentences when they match on first initials with the defendant. The effects are larger for Negroes, which could be due to behavioral biases playing a stronger role when decision-makers are nearly indifferent. The effect is consistent with threatened egotism, in which individuals motivated to manage self-image create social distance from negatively-valenced targets perceived to be associated with the self.

Keywords: Implicit Egoism, Name Effects, Defendants, Egotism

JEL Classification: B51, C93, D63, D64, J15, K00

Suggested Citation

Chen, Daniel L., Implicit Egoism in Sentencing Decisions: First Letter Name Effects with Randomly Assigned Defendants (March 3, 2017). TSE Working Paper No. 16-726. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2928179 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2928179

Daniel L. Chen (Contact Author)

Directeur de Recherche, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Toulouse School of Economics, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, University of Toulouse Capitole, Toulouse, France ( email )

21 allée de Brienne
31015 Toulouse cedex 6 France
Toulouse, 31015
France

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