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To Dollars from Sense: Qualitative to Quantitative Translation in Jury Damage Awards


  • We thank the ISS Judgment, Decision Making and Social Behavior team members for their collegial and insightful comments on our work during the fellowship period. We also thank Edie Greene and Jeffrey Rachlinski for their thoughtful comments on a previous draft of this article, and Francoise Vermeylan for invaluable statistical advice.

Valerie P. Hans, Professor of Law, Cornell University Law School, Myron Taylor Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853; email: Reyna is Professor of Human Development and Psychology, Cornell University. Both authors are Fellows of the Cornell University Institute for the Social Sciences, 2009–2012.


This article offers a new multistage account of jury damage award decision making. Drawing on psychological and economic research on judgment, decision making, and numeracy, the model posits that jurors first make a categorical gist judgment that money damages are warranted, and then make an ordinal gist judgment ranking the damages deserved as low, medium, or high. They then construct numbers that fit the gist of the appropriate magnitude. The article employs data from jury decision-making research to explore the plausibility of the model.