Deliberating about Dollars: The Severity Shift

David A. Schkade, Cass R. Sunstein and Daniel Kahneman

in Punitive Damages

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2002 | ISBN: 9780226780146
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226780160 | DOI:
Deliberating about Dollars: The Severity Shift

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With respect to punitive damages, how does group discussion affect individual views? How, if at all, is the outcome of group deliberation different from a statistical aggregation of individual predeliberation judgments? How might jury deliberations depart from the median or mean of individual judgments made in advance of deliberation? This chapter attempts to make some progress on answering these questions. It does so principally by reporting the results of a massive study of decisions by mock juries (over three thousand people and five hundred juries in total). Six-person juries are asked to deliberate about the appropriate punishment in civil cases involving personal injury. They answer this question in two ways: by setting punitive awards in dollars and by indicating, on a rating scale, the severity of the punishment they wish to inflict on the defendant. The most important and general finding is that with respect to dollar awards, deliberation produces a severity shift.

Keywords: punitive damages; group decision; predeliberation judgments; mock juries; personal injury; punitive awards

Chapter.  6843 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Company and Commercial Law

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