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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Is justice blind or myopic? An examination of the effects of meta-cognitive myopia and truth bias on mock jurors and judges

M. Pantazi, O. Klein, & M. Kissine
Judgment and Decision Making, 
Vol. 15, No. 2, March 2020, pp. 214-229


Previous studies have shown that people are truth-biased in that they tend to believe the information they receive, even if it is clearly flagged as false. The truth bias has been recently proposed to be an instance of meta-cognitive myopia, that is, of a generalized human insensitivity towards the quality and correctness of the information available in the environment. In two studies we tested whether meta-cognitive myopia and the ensuing truth bias may operate in a courtroom setting. Based on a well-established paradigm in the truth-bias literature, we asked mock jurors (Study 1) and professional judges (Study 2) to read two crime reports containing aggravating or mitigating information that was explicitly flagged as false. Our findings suggest that jurors and judges are truth-biased, as their decisions and memory about the cases were affected by the false information. We discuss the implications of the potential operation of the truth bias in the courtroom, in the light of the literature on inadmissible and discredible evidence, and make some policy suggestions.

From the Discussion:

Fortunately, the judiciary system is to some extent shielded by intrusions of illegitimate evidence, since objections are most often raised before a witness’s answer or piece of evidence is presented in court. Therefore, most of the time, inadmissible or false evidence is prevented from entering the fact-finders’ mental representations of a case in the first place. Nevertheless, objections can also be raised after a witnesses’ response has been given. Such objections may not actually protect the fact-finders from the information that has already been presented. An important question that remains open from a policy perspective is therefore how we are to safeguard the rules of evidence, given the fact-finders’ inability to take such meta-information into account.

The research is here.