Cognitive coherence and tort reform
We experimentally study the effects of the split-award tort reform, where the state takes a share of the plaintiff's punitive damage award, on litigants' beliefs and bargaining outcomes. In addition, we study the formation of litigants' beliefs in a strategic environment. Our results provide support for coherence-based reasoning theories: coherence shifts in litigants' background beliefs (elicited before a role is assigned and after commitment to a choice at the pretrial bargaining stage) suggest bi-directionality between choices and beliefs. Our findings also suggest role-specific bias in the updating of plaintiffs' beliefs about firm's negligence. Finally, our findings indicate that split-awards affect plaintiffs' beliefs about fairness and lower out-of-court settlement amounts.
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