Thursday, July 07, 2011

Jury awards for pain and suffering

A paper by Cass Sunstein (Harvard B-School prof and currently in Obama administration) has some interesting insights into jury awards for pain and suffering.  It turns out, they usually have it backwards.  The kinds of injuries/conditions that people tend to get used to over time are the ones that juries see as very salient and so they make big awards.  This includes things like lost limbs.  But over time, the injured starts focusing on other things.  When eating a good meal, you can forget about a lost leg for a while.

On the other hand, chronic issues that we never habituate to are underestimated by juries and get small pain and suffering awards.  Things like chronic pain continue to ruin that good meal for the rest of your life.  But it is less salient to juries, so the awards are smaller.

He recommends creating guidelines based on a series of detailed studies that measure (at a general level) how bad different kinds of injuries/conditions are over time and creating award guidelines that reflect the experience the injured party will really go through, not just what it seems like to an ignorant jury.

Something I had never though about.  But it makes sense.  For a deeper and broader analysis, here is a Yale Law School prize winning paper on the topic.

Subtle Persuasion

The Skeptic column in Scientific American has a great article on decision making biases.  It’s like Michael Shermer (the columnist) took my class.  His basic message is that our decisions are based more on emotions and frames than they are on the actual facts.  He highlights confirmation bias, anchoring, and authority.  Then he has a great addition – the meta-bias.  This is the bias blind spot – we see bias in others but not in ourselves.

Then the Anti-Gravity column was about persuasion.  Steve Mirsky (columnist) uses car salesmen as an example but is really talking about persuasion strategies in general.  He mentions some of the good ones.  Establishing rapport creates in-group bias and likeability bias.  Then he said the salesman told him the price was available just for that day (scarcity).  The salesman also did some nice extra things to create reciprocity bias.  

These are very good things to know before getting into a persuasion environment (either as consumer or persuader). It works on juries, consumers, an even dealing with relatives.