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RESEARCH SEMINAR

Anna Bindler (University of Gothenburg): Path decency in jury decision-making

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Welcome to our research seminar with researcher Anna Bindler (University of Gothenburg).

Tittel: Path decency in jury decision-making

Abstract:

A large behavioral economics literature is concerned with cognitive biases in individual and group decisions, including sequential decisions. These studies primarily find a negative path-dependency consistent with mechanisms such as the gambler’s fallacy or contrast effects. We provide the first test for such biases in group decision making using observational data. Specifically, we study more than 27,000 verdicts adjudicated sequentially by over 900 juries for high-stakes criminal cases at London’s Old Bailey Criminal Court in the 18th and 19th centuries. Using jury fixed effects to account for heterogeneity in their baseline propensity to convict, we find that a previous guilty verdict significantly increases the chance of a subsequent guilty verdict by 6.7-14.1%. This positive autocorrelation, which contrasts previous studies, is (i) robust to alternative estimation strategies, (ii) independent of jury experience and (iii) driven by the most recent lag and pairs of similar cases. These findings are consistent with the notion of sequential assimilation effects and potentially reflect a jury’s desire to be internally consistent. As in modern-day jury studies, our results highlight the possibility that factors independent of the facts and evidence of the current case affect jury behavior.