Guiding Jurors on Damage Award Decisions: ExperimentalInvestigations of Approaches Based on Theory and Practice


anchoring; concussions; damage awards; fuzzy-trace theory; juror decisions

Document Type



Theory and practitioner “scaling” advice informed hypotheses that guidance to mock jurors should: (a) increase validity (vertical equity), decrease variability (reliability), and improve coherence in awards; (b) improve subjective experience of jurors’ decisionmaking (rated helpfulness, confidence, and difficulty); and (c) guidance should have greatest impact when it includes both verbal and numerical benchmarks. Three mock juror experiments (N = 197 students, N = 476 MTurk workers, and N = 391 students) tested novel scaling approaches and predictions from the Hans-Reyna model of damage award decision-making. Jurors reviewed a legal case and provided dollar awards to compensate plaintiffs for pain and suffering following concussions. Experiments varied injury severity (low v. high) and the plaintiff attorney’s guidance (no guidance, verbal guidance, numerical guidance, and verbal-plus-numerical guidance) between subjects. Results support predictions that, even without guidance, mock jurors appropriately categorize the gist of injuries as low or high severity, and dollar awards reflect that gist. Participants gave higher awards for more severe injuries, indicating that they extracted the qualitative gist of damages. Also, as expected, guidance, particularly verbal-plus-numerical guidance, had beneficial effects on jurors’ subjective experience, with participants reporting that it was a helpful aid in decision making. Numerical guidance, both with and without verbal guidance, reduced award variability in severe injury cases in all three experiments. Scaling guidance did not improve the already strong gist-verbatim correspondence or award validity. Both grasping the gist of damages and mapping that gist onto numbers are important, but jurors appear to benefit from assistance with numerical mapping.

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