Sentencing Under Uncertainty: Anchoring Effects in the Courtroom1

Authors

  • Birte Enough,

    Corresponding author
    1. Research Institute for Public Administration at the German Post-Graduate School of Administrative Sciences Speyer, Germany
      Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Birte Englich, Psychologic 11, Universitat Wurzburg, Rontgenring 10, D-97070 Wurzburg, Germany, e-mail: englich@psychologic.uni-wuerzburg.de
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  • Thomas Mussweiler

    1. Universitat Witrzburg Wurzburg, Germany
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  • 1

    The present research was supported by a grant from the German Science Foundation (DFG, grant number 264/17–1). We would like to thank Fritz Strack for his helpful suggestions concerning this research.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Birte Englich, Psychologic 11, Universitat Wurzburg, Rontgenring 10, D-97070 Wurzburg, Germany, e-mail: englich@psychologic.uni-wuerzburg.de

Abstract

Research on juridical decision making has demonstrated that largely disparate sentences are often given for identical crimes. This may be the case because judges' sentencing decisions are influenced by a recommended or demanded sentence. Building on research on judgmental anchoring (Tversky & Kahneman, 1974), the present investigation examines whether a sentencing demand has a direct influence on a given sentence. Using criminal trial judges as participants, Study 1 demonstrates that such a direct influence does, in fact, exist. Sentencing decisions are assimilated to the sentence demanded by the prosecutor. Study 2 further reveals that this influence is independent of the perceived relevance of the sentencing demand. Study 3 demonstrates that this influence is also independent of judges' experience.

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