Salience Theory of Judicial Decisions
NBER Working Paper No. 19695
We present a model of judicial decision making in which the judge overweights the salient facts of the case. The context of the judicial decision, which is comparative by nature, shapes which aspects of the case stand out and draw the judge's attention. By focusing judicial attention on such salient aspects of the case, legally irrelevant information can effect judicial decisions. Our model accounts for a range of recent experimental evidence bearing on the psychology of judicial decisions, including anchoring effects in the setting of damages, decoy effects in choice of legal remedies, and framing effects in the decision to litigate. The model also offers a new approach to positive analysis of damage awards in torts.
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