Cognitive Bias in the Courtroom: Combating the Anchoring Effect in Criminal Sentencing

39 Pages Posted: 23 Jun 2017

Date Written: June 23, 2017

Abstract

Judges and juries exercise broad discretion in criminal sentencing outcomes. They may strive to be fair, but the complexity and uncertainty of these judgments leads to predictable systematic errors or biases. This Article examines the anchoring effect in criminal sentencing. Through a study using 780 Amazon Mechanical Turk participants, the authors show the prosecutor’s sentencing recommendation has a significant anchoring effect on sentencing judgments. Building off previous research in civil jury awards, the study also reveals that an identify and counter strategy can significantly mitigate the effect in criminal cases, helping defense counsel combat the anchoring bias derived from the prosecutor’s recommendation.

Keywords: Defense Strategies, Criminal Cases, Anchoring Effect, Sentencing, Courtroom, Trial Techniques

Suggested Citation

Stein, Christopher and Drouin, Michelle, Cognitive Bias in the Courtroom: Combating the Anchoring Effect in Criminal Sentencing (June 23, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2991611

Christopher Stein (Contact Author)

U.S. Air Force ( email )

Washington, DC
United States

Michelle Drouin

Purdue University Fort Wayne ( email )

Department of Psychology
2101 E. Coliseum Blvd.
Fort Wayne, IN 46805
United States

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