The More the Better? Effects of Training, Experience and Information Amount in Legal Judgments


Stephan Dickert, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Kurt Schumacher Str. 10, D-53113 Bonn, Germany.



In an experimental study involving German lay judges, law students and controls, effects of legal training and experience as well as information amount on legal judgments was investigated. In a three (legal knowledge: legal training versus legal experience versus controls) x two (information amount: high versus low) between-subjects design, 137 participants judged the premeditation of a perpetrator in eight real-world cases decided by the German Federal Court of Justice. Judgment congruency with the Court's ruling increased with legal training, but official lay judges showed lower congruency compared with student controls. Additionally, legal training and experience corresponded with higher confidence. Emotional reactions to the legal cases were stronger when more information was given for individuals without legal training but decreased for individuals with training. An information-processing perspective to explain the observed differences in legal judgments is advanced, and the issue of using untrained individuals in the legal decision making process is discussed. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.