Does Reason Writing Reduce Decision Bias? Experimental Evidence from Judges in China
Anecdotal evidence and academic research show that judges’ subjective feelings toward litigants have undue influence on their judgments. This article suggests a simple debiasing procedure, namely, requiring judges to write their reasons before making a decision. I conduct experiments on incumbent Chinese judges to test its effectiveness. Study 1 uses a between-subjects design to explore the interaction of reason writing and a stimulus that induces a judge to have negative feelings toward a defendant. Judges who are required to write down their reasons before they decide a case are significantly less affected by the stimulus than those who directly enter the decision-making stage. Study 2 provides evidence that a forced deliberation period achieves a similar debiasing effect. Study 3 examines the opposite of reason writing— the delegation of reason writing, which resembles the delegation of opinion writing by judges to law clerks. I find that delegation serves to reinforce biases.
"Does Reason Writing Reduce Decision Bias? Experimental Evidence from Judges in China,"
Journal of Legal Studies: Vol. 47:
1, Article 3.
Available at: https://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/jls/vol47/iss1/3