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13 Cardozo L. Rev. 519 (1991 - 1992)
A Cognitive Theory of Juror Decision Making: The Story Model

handle is hein.journals/cdozo13 and id is 541 raw text is: A COGNITIVE THEORY OF JUROR DECISION
Nancy Pennington and Reid Hastie*
The goal of our research over the past ten years has been to de-
velop a scientific description of the mind of the juror as it is revealed
in the legal decision-making process. Our conclusion is that the juror
is a sense-making information processor who strives to create a mean-
ingful summary of the evidence available that explains what happened
in the events depicted through witnesses, exhibits, and arguments at
We begin the presentation of our views with a quick survey of the
images of the juror that have been significant in modem legal deci-
sions and scholarship. However, we could find no succinct summary
of the assumed decision processes of a typical juror in the extensive
literature emanating from law schools, courts, and other legal author-
ities. From clues and fragments appearing in rules of evidence, appel-
late decisions, and law texts, we can infer a common image of a
reasonable man who is capable of rough-and-ready logical deduc-
tions, but who is also likely to be prejudiced, swayed, or diverted by
sentiment-evoking evidence.' The psychological literature also lacks
any general unified discussion, although an unflattering image of the
juror can be discerned in the multitude of references to a bias-prone
creature who constructs a decision from a toolbox of prejudices and
Probably the most unified descriptions of the juror's thought
processes are mathematical models based on Bayesian probability the-
ory,3 variants of traditional probability theory,4 and other algebraic
* Psychology Department, University of Colorado. Address all Correspondence to:
Nancy Pennington, Psychology Department, Campus Box 345, University of Colorado, Boul-
der, Colorado 80309-0345.
Research reported in this paper was supported by the National Science Foundation, Law
and Social Sciences Program. The authors would like to thank Ronald Allen and Richard
Lempert for comments on a previous draft of the paper.
I See H. KALVEN & H. ZEISEL, THE AMERICAN JURY 193-218 (1966).
2 E.g., Saks & Kidd, Human Information Processing and Adjudication: Trial by Heuristics,
15 LAW & Soc'Y REV. 123 (1980-81).
3 E.g., Fienberg & Schervish, The Relevance of Bayesian Inference for the Presentation of
Statistical Evidence and for Legal Decision Making, 66 B.U.L. REV. 771 (1986); Kaplan, Deci-
sion Theory and the Fact Finding Process, 20 STAN. L. REV. 1065 (1968).

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