IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Legal Interpretative Process and Litigants’ Cognitive Biases

  • Deffains, Bruno
  • Langlais, Eric

For contemporary legal theory, law is essentially an interpretative and hermeneutic practice (Ackerman (1991), Horwitz (1992)). A straightforward consequence is that legal disputes between parties are motivated by their divergent interpretations regarding what law says on their case. This point of view fits well the growing evidence showing that litigants' cognitive performances display the optimistic bias or self-serving bias (Babcock and Lowenstein (1997)). This paper provides a theoretical analysis of the influence of such a cognitive bias on pretrial negotiations. However, we also consider that this effetcs is mitigated because of litigants' confidence about their own ability to predict the verdict; we model this issue assuming that litigants are risk averse in the sense of Yaari (1987), i.e. they display a kind of (rational) probability distorsion which is also well documented in experimantal economics. In a model à la Bebcuck (1984), we show that the consequences of the self-serving bias are partially consistent with the "optimistic model", but that parties' risk aversion has more ambiguous/unpredictable effects. These results contribute to explain that the believes about the result of the trial are not sufficient by themselves to understand the behaviors of litigants. As suggested by legal theory, the confidence the parties have in their believes is probably more important.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
File Function: original version
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 14370.

in new window

Date of creation: Nov 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:14370
Contact details of provider: Postal: Schackstr. 4, D-80539 Munich, Germany
Phone: +49-(0)89-2180-2219
Fax: +49-(0)89-2180-3900
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Landes, William M, 1971. "An Economic Analysis of the Courts," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14(1), pages 61-107, April.
  2. Michael R. Baye & Dan Kovenock & Casper G. de Vries, 2004. "Comparative Analysis of Litigation Systems: An Auction-Theoretic Approach," Working Papers 2004-24, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy.
  3. Joel Waldfogel, 1998. "Reconciling Asymmetric Information and Divergent Expectations Theories of Litigation," NBER Working Papers 6409, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Linda Babcock & George Loewenstein, 1997. "Explaining Bargaining Impasse: The Role of Self-Serving Biases," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(1), pages 109-126, Winter.
  5. Farmer, Amy & Pecorino, Paul, 2002. "Pretrial bargaining with self-serving bias and asymmetric information," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 163-176, June.
  6. Ichino, Andrea & Polo, Michele & Rettore, Enrico, 2003. "Are judges biased by labor market conditions?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 47(5), pages 913-944, October.
  7. Loewenstein, George, et al, 1993. "Self-Serving Assessments of Fairness and Pretrial Bargaining," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(1), pages 135-59, January.
  8. Farmer, Amy & Pecorino, Paul, 1994. "Pretrial negotiations with asymmetric information on risk preferences," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 273-281, September.
  9. Tversky, Amos & Wakker, Peter, 1995. "Risk Attitudes and Decision Weights," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(6), pages 1255-80, November.
  10. Diecidue, Enrico & Wakker, Peter P, 2001. " On the Intuition of Rank-Dependent Utility," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 23(3), pages 281-98, November.
  11. Viscusi, W Kip, 2001. "Jurors, Judges, and the Mistreatment of Risk by the Courts," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(1), pages 107-42, January.
  12. Yaari, Menahem E, 1987. "The Dual Theory of Choice under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(1), pages 95-115, January.
  13. Weber, Elke U & Kirsner, Britt, 1997. "Reasons for Rank-Dependent Utility Evaluation," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 41-61, January.
  14. Joel Waldfogel, 1993. "The Selection Hypothesis and the Relationship between Trial and Plaintiff Victory," NBER Working Papers 4508, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Oren Bar-Gill, 2006. "The Evolution and Persistence of Optimism in Litigation," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 22(2), pages 490-507, October.
  16. Lucian Arye Bebchuk, 1984. "Litigation and Settlement under Imperfect Information," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 15(3), pages 404-415, Autumn.
  17. Ross, Stephen A, 1981. "Some Stronger Measures of Risk Aversion in the Small and the Large with Applications," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(3), pages 621-38, May.
  18. Roell, Ailsa A, 1987. "Risk Aversion in Quiggin and Yaari's Rank-Order Model of Choice under Uncertainty," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 97(388a), pages 143-59, Supplemen.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:14370. 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: (Ekkehart Schlicht)

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.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with 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 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.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.