FROM THE EDITOR
TERRY R. RAKES, Decision Line Editor Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
I am sitting in front of my computer looking out the window at 34 inches of freshly-fallen snow, with another foot of the white stuff forecasted to arrive soon. At times like this, good reading material is a precious commodity. I have been reading the feature articles that appear in this issue, and I find them to be a broad and interesting selection which I believe you will enjoy. When combined with information about the recent Boston meeting, the call for papers for Orlando, and numerous other items about the Institute, they make this a most informative and interesting issue.
Leading off with the ``President's Letter,'' John C. Anderson, University of Minnesota, reflects on the 1995 Annual Meeting in Boston and discusses contributions that people have made to the Institute. He also shares some of the plans for the upcoming year. In the last installment of our ``International Issues'' column, we presented an article concerning changes in the economic structure of New Zealand. In this issue, Jeff E. Heyl, Lincoln University (Canterbury, New Zealand), provides additional insights into these changes.
In the ``Production/Operations Management'' column, Karen A. Brown, Seattle University, explains how international study tours can extend our coverage of international concepts in business curricula. Andrew Vazsonyi, University of San Francisco, discusses the changing group decision making environment that is emerging in his column, ``The Specialist with a Universal Mind.'' In the ``Information Technology'' column, Lance B. Eliot, Eliot & Associates, addresses the topic of I.S. annual reports.
A subject that is always of interest to our members is the academic job market. In the ``Doctoral Issues'' column, David L. Olson, Texas A&M University, discusses the demographics, economics, and whims of popularity behind the current state of the market. The ``Software Review'' column continues its review of programs for analyzing structural equation models with a look at EQS by Professors George A. Marcoulides and Colette M. Lay, California State University - Fullerton. In ``From The Bookshelf,'' John P. Leschke, University of Virginia, discusses how P/OM has historically been presented and how four recent texts represent an alternative to the traditional framework.
Occasionally, I will print an article in this column which does not seem to fit into one of the other feature columns, but has broad appeal. Given the number of jury trials in recent months that have received intense media attention, I believe you will find the following article by Carol F. Hartz and Harvey J. Brightman, Georgia State University, to be most interesting. They describe human judgement factors which apparently influence jury decisions within an actual jury trial.
HUMAN JUDGEMENT FACTORS AND JURY DELIBERATIONS: SOME ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE
by Carol F. Hartz and Harvey J. Brightman, College of Business Administration, Georgia State University
The O.J. Simpson trial has recently riveted the attention of the American public. Like other trials, the jury's decision could not be wholly based on objective estimates of the probability of guilt or innocence. Human judgment processes resulting in subjective probability estimates of culpability had to replace a purely analytical approach. The outcome of the jury's deliberations may be debated for years to come.
In this note we describe the heuristics, biases and group dynamics that influenced a jury's decision making in which the senior author participated. The behavior of a single jury located thousands of miles from Los Angeles and concerned with different issues may not have exact parallels to the Simpson case. However, a closer look at one instance of group decision making based on imperfect and contradictory information may shed light on some human judgment factors that can influence jury deliberations.
In this personal injury case, the plaintiff claimed that she was unable to work or assume normal family-centered responsibilities because of injury suffered in an automobile accident. However, the plaintiff had a history of previous neurological problems. The plaintiff's attorney asked for an award of roughly $700,000. This amount exceeded the sum of the plaintiff's annual income plus medical bills by a factor of about 18 times. The attorney based the amount on the economic value associated with the loss, pain and suffering experienced by the plaintiff.
The defendant was a white male in his early 20's and the plaintiff a white female in her 30's. The jury pool included an equal number of men and women and was about one-third African-American. After questioning and written challenges by the defense and prosecution, the jury was ultimately composed of 11 women and one man. Five jurors were African-American. The ages of the jurors ranged from early 20's to late 50's. Jurors' educational level ranged from high school graduate or less to doctoral student. The trial was conducted in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia.
The jury's deliberation included four distinct stages, and resulted in an $111,000 award. First, the jury selected a chairperson. Second, the jury participated in an unstructured discussion of the evidence. Jurors unanimously agreed that the accident had aggravated, but not wholly caused, the neurological symptoms suffered by the plaintiff. The defendant had acknowledged responsibility for causing the accident. The second stage ended when the jury agreed that the amount of the award was the only issue to be decided.
The third stage began with the agreement that the award amount would be the average of each juror's preferred award amount. However, unstructured discussion and negotiation occurred as jurors temporarily abstained from voting or argued for their choice as they voted. After all jurors voted, the preferred award amounts were averaged by a juror who happened to carry a pocket calculator. The fourth stage occurred when verification of the averaging process revealed an error. In this stage, jurors again discussed and revised the award. The trial lasted three and a half days while jury deliberation lasted less than a day and a half.
Heuristics, Biases and Group Dynamics
Anchoring and adjustment. The determination of damages in this case may have been affected by the anchoring and adjustment bias. Describing the anchoring and adjustment bias, Medin and Ross say,
A common strategy in making estimates is to start with some initial estimate or anchor and then adjust it in light of new information to come up with an answer or final estimate.... An important aspect of anchoring is that we may be influenced by initial anchors even when these anchors are generated by an arbitrary or biased source. [Medin and Ross, 1992, p. 411]
During deliberations, a majority of the jurors converged on an award of $50,000. The sole male juror argued that fair compensation would be 15 to 20% of the damages suggested by the plaintiff's attorney. His reasoning was that any lesser award would convey to the plaintiff that the jury did not believe her testimony. He stated that 15 to 20% corresponded to a tip that a waiter or waitress would receive in a restaurant.
This argument, anchored on the $700,000 award suggested by the plaintiff's attorney, was highly persuasive to some jurors. Although jurors advocating a lower award attempted to refocus the discussion on disability benefits commonly offered by businesses, they were unsuccessful. Several jurors previously committed to a lower award increased their preferred award amount after the juror advancing the anchored argument spoke.
The concreteness heuristic: inside and outside views of the problem. The concreteness heuristic (Brightman, 1988) occurs when an individual places greater weight on highly personal data than on abstract or impersonal data. Kahneman and Lovallo (1993) describe a similar phenomenon as inside versus outside views of a problem. While an inside view focuses on the case at hand, the outside view focuses on the statistics of a class of cases chosen to be similar in relevant respects to the present one.
The chairperson's teenaged son had been involved in an automobile injury lawsuit in the past year. She stated that the compensation her son received from his lawsuit, although seemingly a large amount of money, was reasonable when compared with the loss he suffered each day. She described the expenses her son incurred as a plaintiff in a lawsuit. The jury appeared to be swayed by her argument and to accept her experience as having greater weight than their more abstract view of the value of an award. Some jurors increased their preferred award amount after she spoke, although other jurors protested that her son's experience should not guide the deliberations in this trial.
Simple averaging versus consensus building. This jury may have felt a lack of commitment to a decision based on an average instead of a true consensus. Moscovici and Doise (1994) suggest that a "risky shift" may occur in groups that are willing to endure conflict to reach a true consensus. They state that through full discussion, groups recognize their shared values. Groups can then reach a true consensus that reflects these shared values and is more extreme than a simple average. This consensus reflects a dominant common pole of opinions that is a "risky shift" away from the middle. The authors assert that commitment to group choices made through simple averaging rather than through the building of a consensus is relatively low.
This jury's deliberation seemed to confirm that commitment to a decision is low when a simple average of group ideas is calculated. When the first poll of jurors' opinions was taken, the average award was thought to be $93,000. The jurors agreed to this amount after the calculated average was announced. When the arithmetic was checked before handing the result to the bailiff, an error in calculating the average was discovered. The true average was closer to $98,000. The resulting discussion and subsequent re-polling of jurors resulted in an award amount of $111,000. An increase in the award of more than 19% occurred, seemingly because of a lack of commitment to an averaged result.
Jurors are subject to biases, heuristics and the results of group dynamics as are members of any unstructured discussion group. The personal injury case described above illustrates that the outcome of a jury's decision may be highly dependent on the life experiences and interactions of individual jurors. Like the O.J. Simpson case, this case indicates that human judgment factors are of key importance in the jury decision-making process.
Brightman, H. J., (1988). Group Problem Solving: An Improved Managerial Approach, East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State University Press.
Kahneman, D., & Lovallo, D., (1993). Timid choices and bold forecasts: A cognitive perspective on risk taking, Management Science, 39, 17-31
Medin, D.L., & Ross, B.H., (1992). Cognitive Psychology, Fort Worth, Texas: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers
Moscovici, S., & Doise, W., (1994). Conflict and Consensus: A general theory of collective decisions, London: Sage Publications Ltd.
CAROL HARTZ is a doctoral student in decision sciences at Georgia State University. Her research interests include human judgment processes and fuzzy mathematics. She has been a consultant in Management Information Systems since 1974.
HARVEY J. BRIGHTMAN is Regents' Professor of Decision Sciences at Georgia State University. His main areas of interest are managerial problem solving/decision making and the improvement of university- level teaching. He is currently completing a book on improving university-level teaching. Dr. Brightman is a past president and a Fellow of the Decision Sciences Institute.