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86 Judicature 44 (2002-2003)
Judging by Heuristic - Cognitive Illusions in Judicial Decision Making

handle is hein.journals/judica86 and id is 44 raw text is: dedicated judges surely make occa-
sional mistakes, but the public ex-
pects judges to avoid making system-
atic errors that favor particular
parties or writing opinions that em-
CHRIS GUTHRIE is a professor at
Vanderbilt University Law School.
JEFFREY J. RACHLINSKI is a professor
at Cornell Law School.
ANDREW J. WISTRICH is a United States
Magistrate Judge, United States District
Court, Central District of California.
bed these mistakes into the substan-
tive law.
Psychological research on human
judgment, however, suggests that this
expectation might be unrealistic.
This research indicates that people

some circumstances causes people to
draw systematically inaccurate infer-
ences-in other words, these heuris-
tics can create cognitive illusions of
Just as certain patterns of visual
stimuli can fool people's eyesight,
leading them to see images that are
not really present, certain fact pat-
terns can fool people's judgment,
leading them to believe things that
are not really true. The systematic
nature of the errors that these illu-
sions produce can be analogized to
the sort of errors that an expert
marksman makes if his rifle sight is
out of alignment: his shots land in a
tight cluster, but away from the
Decades of research indicate that
cognitive illusions affect the way ju-
ries decide cases.2 But are judges any
better? On the one hand, judges are

illusions. On the other hand, re-
search on judgment and choice sug-
gests that cognitive illusions plague
many professionals, including doc-
tors, real-estate appraisers, engi-
neers, accountants, options traders,
military leaders, psychologists, and
even lawyers.' Systematic, controlled
studies of judicial decision making
This article is abstracted from Guthrie,
Rachlinski & Wistrich, Inside the Judicial Mind, 86
CORNrELL L. REv. 777 (2001). The views expressed
are solely those of the authors, and not of the
Federal Judicial Center, the Administrative Of-
fice of the United States Courts, or the Judicial
Conference of the United States.
1. See Tversky and Kahneman, Judgment Under
Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases, 185 SCIENCE 1124
2. See MacCoun, Experimental Research on Jury
Decision Making, 244 SCIENCE 1046 (1989).
3. See generally, Pious, THE PSYCHOLOGY Or JUDc-
MENT AND DECISION MAKING 258 (1993) (observing
that several studies have found that experts dis-
play either roughly the same biases as college stu-
dents or the same biases at somewhat reduced

44 Judicature Volume 86, Number 1 July-August 2002

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