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The Meaning of Probability Judgments: An Essay on the Use and Misuse of Behavioral Economics

65 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2004  

Charles M. Yablon

Yeshiva University - Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Abstract

In this essay, Professor Yablon challenges the assumption that behavioral heuristics - such as the availability heuristic - constitute "biases" that necessarily lead to errors in probability judgments. He notes that there are many different concepts of probability and, in many contexts, no agreed-upon method for determining the correctness of inconsistent probability judgments. Yet many legal academics and policymakers ignore these complex aspects of probability theory, assuming that statistical or frequentist probabilities are always to be preferred over subjective judgments of probability.

Professor Yablon argues that choosing between frequentist and subjective approaches to probability judgments in policymaking can only be done with great sensitivity to context and the quality of the information available. He provides examples of current policy debates where statistical probability is to be preferred, such as environmental protection, others where subjective probability judgments are preferable, such as settlement of litigation, and a third important category, including products liability, where neither approach is clearly superior.

Keywords: probability, epistemology, inference, behavioral science, cognitive psychology

Suggested Citation

Yablon, Charles M., The Meaning of Probability Judgments: An Essay on the Use and Misuse of Behavioral Economics. University of Illinois Law Review, 2004. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=581542

Charles M. Yablon (Contact Author)

Yeshiva University - Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law ( email )

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New York, NY 10003
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212-790-0205 (Fax)

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