Damage Anchors on Real Juries


  • This research was supported by research grants from the State Justice Institute (Grant SJI-97-N-247), the National Science Foundation (Grant SBR9818806), and the American Bar Foundation, with additional support from Northwestern University Law School and Duke University Law School. We are indebted to an enlightened group of Arizona judges who, with an eye toward optimizing the jury trial, permitted the videotaping project to occur. For helpful comments and suggestions on this article, we thank Valerie Hans and the participants at the Cornell Conference on Judgment by Numbers, October 2010.

Shari S. Diamond, Northwestern University Law School, 357 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL 60611; email: s-diamond@law.northwestern.edu. Diamond is the Howard J. Trienens Professor of Law and Professor of Psychology, Northwestern University and Research Professor, American Bar Foundation; Rose is Associate Professor of Sociology and Law at the University of Texas at Austin; Murphy is Research Social Scientist, American Bar Foundation; Meixner is a JD/Ph.D. student at Northwestern University.


Experiments reveal anchoring as a powerful force, even when participants see the anchor as irrelevant. Here, we examine the reactions of real deliberating jurors to attorney damage requests and concessions in 31 cases involving 33 plaintiffs in which the jury awarded damages. Jurors were critical consumers of attorney suggestions. They reacted more negatively to, and were less influenced by, plaintiff ad damnums for pain and suffering than to damage requests in categories grounded in more objective evidence. Deliberations revealed that jurors often perceive plaintiff ad damnums not only as irrelevant, but also as outrageous, impressions reflected in their verdicts. These findings suggest that extreme plaintiff ad damnums, including those without grounding in quantitative evidence from trial, may not exert substantial undue influence.