IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/cdl/oplwec/qt5mq9x0rs.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Adapt or Optimize? The Psychology and Economics of Rules of Evidence

Author

Listed:
  • Cooter, Robert D

Abstract

In civil disputes, the plaintiff must prove his case by the preponderance of the evidence. To reach this standard, the plaintiff accumulates evidence by combining facts. I compare two models of this process. Decision makers can adapt their behavior for improved results, as assumed in some psychological models. Adaptive models predict that court practice will allow the plaintiff to combine facts according to relatively simple rules. Alternatively, decision makers can optimize their behavior for best results, as assumed in most economic models. Optimization models predict that court practice will require the plaintiff to combine facts in ways that conform to the laws of probability theory. The two predictions contradict each other when simple, adaptive rules violate the laws of probability theory. I show that actual practice in a California court allows the plaintiff to combine facts according to relatively simple rules that sometimes violate the laws of probability theory. Adaptation is, consequently, a better descriptive theory than optimization. Procedures that violate the laws of probability theory, however, are vulnerable to withering criticism. Given that trials proceed with deliberate speed under expert guidance, suboptimal adaptations are irrational. Optimization, consequently, is a better normative theory than adaptation.

Suggested Citation

  • Cooter, Robert D, 2005. "Adapt or Optimize? The Psychology and Economics of Rules of Evidence," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt5mq9x0rs, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:oplwec:qt5mq9x0rs
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/5mq9x0rs.pdf;origin=repeccitec
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cdl:oplwec:qt5mq9x0rs. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Lisa Schiff). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/lebrkus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.