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Bar News - June 20, 2008

How Judges Make Decisions

A recent study evaluating how trial judges make decisions found that they tend to make spontaneous, effortless and fast decisions instead of concentrating and deliberating to reach conclusions. Putting it gently, they’re predominantly intuitive, rather than cognitive, decision-makers, according to a brief on the study in the June 2008 issue of ABA Journal.

Chris Guthrie, a professor at Vanderbilt University School of Law, reached that conclusion, in part, by asking 295 Florida trial judges who’d gathered at a conference to take the three-question cognitive reflection test created by business professor Shane Frederick of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "The CRT can be tricky because each question has a correct answer that’s easy to see after you’ve deliberated, but each also has an intuitive—but incorrect—answer that almost immediately comes to mind. How you answer sheds light on whether you’re an intuitive or deliberative thinker," according to the ABA Journal article.

Only 15 percent of the judges answered all three questions correctly, and 31 percent missed on all three answers. Many other smart people have also performed poorly on this test. For example, the judges’ scores ranked them just below students at Harvard who took the test, but ahead of students at the University of Michigan.

Read more about this at: "Blinking on the Bench: How Judges Decide Cases," published in the November issue of Cornell Law Review. Here’s the ABA item: URL to share:

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