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
judgment.
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
bullseye.
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
(1974).
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
levels).

44 Judicature Volume 86, Number 1 July-August 2002

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