Playing Dice With Criminal Sentences: The Influence of Irrelevant Anchors on Experts’ Judicial Decision Making

  title={Playing Dice With Criminal Sentences: The Influence of Irrelevant Anchors on Experts’ Judicial Decision Making},
  author={Birte Englich and Thomas Mussweiler and Fritz Strack},
  journal={Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin},
  pages={188 - 200}
Judicial sentencing decisions should be guided by facts, not by chance. The present research however demonstrates that the sentencing decisions of experienced legal professionals are influenced by irrelevant sentencing demands even if they are blatantly determined at random. Participating legal experts anchored their sentencing decisions on a given sentencing demand and assimilated toward it even if this demand came from an irrelevant source (Study 1), they were informed that this demand was… Expand

Figures and Topics from this paper

Legal Techniques for Rationalizing Biased Judicial Decisions: Evidence from Experiments with Real Judges
Judges rarely reveal their real reasoning in their opinions when they are influenced by factors that they know they should not consider. The natural next question is how, when a judge is improperlyExpand
«Give him five years!» - Influences of Partisan Hecklers on Judges' Sentencing Decisions
On the basis of previous results on anchoring effects in the courtroom as well as the selective accessibility model, the current study examines whether even a partisan heckler shouting into theExpand
Justice Is Less Blind, and Less Legalistic, than We Thought: Evidence from an Experiment with Real Judges
We experimentally investigate the determinants of judicial decisions in a setting resembling real-world judicial decision making. We gave US federal judges 55 minutes to adjudicate a real appealsExpand
Are judges influenced by legally irrelevant circumstances?
Judges should not be influenced by legally irrelevant circumstances in their legal decision making and judges generally believe that they manage legally irrelevant circumstances well. The purposeExpand
Extraneous factors in judicial decisions
The common caricature of realism that justice is “what the judge ate for breakfast” in sequential parole decisions made by experienced judges is tested and suggests that judicial rulings can be swayed by extraneous variables that should have no bearing on legal decisions. Expand
The impact of legal expertise on moral decision-making biases
Traditional and mainstream legal frameworks conceive law primarily as a purely rational practice, free from affect or intuition. However, substantial evidence indicates that human decision-makingExpand
Predicting sentencing for low-level crimes: comparing models of human judgment.
To understand the cognitive processes underlying sentencing decisions, an analysis of trial records in cases of larceny, fraud, and forgery revealed that prosecutors' sentencing recommendations were best described by the mapping model, a heuristic model of quantitative estimation. Expand
Sentencing Recommendations, Anchoring Effect and Fairness in Criminal Justice—An Empirical Study Based on a Sample of 520 Sentences in K City*
The anchoring effect is a powerful and widespread cognitive phenomenon in the decision-making field. Our quantitative analysis of a sample of 520 sentences indicates that the sentencingExpand
On Getting Inside the Judge’s Mind
According to the scales of justice, the judge, in an unbiased way and directed by law, attends to all of the available information in a case, weighs it according to its significance, and integratesExpand
Judging the Judiciary by the Numbers: Empirical Research on Judges
Do judges make decisions that are truly impartial? A wide range of experimental and field studies reveal that several extralegal factors influence judicial decision making. DemographicExpand


Sentencing Under Uncertainty: Anchoring Effects in the Courtroom1
Research on juridical decision making has demonstrated that largely disparate sentences are often given for identical crimes. This may be the case because judges' sentencing decisions are influencedExpand
The Last Word in Court—A Hidden Disadvantage for the Defense
It is demonstrated that the defense's sentencing recommendation is anchored on, and consequently assimilated toward, the preceding recommendation by the prosecution, which suggests that the standard procedural sequence in court may place the defense at a distinct disadvantage. Expand
The Process of Sentencing Adult Felons
If there is one conclusion about the United States criminal justice system with which most knowledgeable observers of the system would agree, it is that the sentencing of convicted felons isExpand
Juror Judgments in Civil Cases: Effects of Plaintiff's Requests and Plaintiff's Identity on Punitive Damage Awards
Two experiments were conducted to study the manner in which civil jurors assess punitive damage awards. Jury-eligible citizens were shown a videotaped summary of an environmental damage lawsuit andExpand
The More You Ask For, the More You Get: Anchoring in Personal Injury Verdicts
The 'anchoring and adjustment' bias was demonstrated in a personal injury case using mock jurors. In Experiment 1, the ad damnum, or requested compensation, was manipulated across participants. InExpand
Psychological Models of Professional Decision Making
  • M. Dhami
  • Psychology, Medicine
  • Psychological science
  • 2003
In both courts, a simple heuristic proved to be a better predictor of judicial decisions than a more complex model that instantiated the principles of due process. Expand
Anchoring and Adjustment In Probabilistic Inference in Auditing
The results of experiments are described, designed to assess whether auditors formulate judgments in accordance' with normative principles of decision making or whether a particular alternative to the normative model of decisionmaking under uncertainty 's employed. Expand
Shaping juror attitudes: effects of requesting different damage amounts in personal injury trials
Abstract In almost every personal injury trial the injured person's attorney must decide how much to ask the jury to award in damages. Research regarding attitude change in other settings indicatesExpand
Incorporating the Irrelevant: Anchors in Judgments of Belief and Value
Imagine walking down a supermarket aisle and passing an end-of-aisle display of canned tomato soup. A sign on the display says, “Limit 12 per customer.” Would such a sign influence the number of cansExpand
Head Over the Heart or Heart Over the Head? Cognitive Experiential Self‐Theory and Extralegal Heuristics in Juror Decision Making1
Cognitive experiential self-theory (CEST), which maintains that information can be processed in both an experiential (emotional) and a rational mode. Experiential processing fosters a reliance onExpand