Is there a conjunction fallacy in legal probabilistic decision making?

Wojciechowski, B. W. & Pothos, E. M. (2018). Is there a conjunction fallacy in legal probabilistic decision making?. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 391.. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00391

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Abstract

Classical probability theory (CPT) has represented the rational standard for decision making in human cognition. Even though CPT has provided many descriptively excellent decision models, there have also been some empirical results persistently problematic for CPT accounts. The tension between the normative prescription of CPT and human behavior is particularly acute in cases where we have higher expectations for rational decisions. One such case concerns legal decision making from legal experts, such as attorneys and prosecutors and, more so, judges. In the present research we explore one of the most influential CPT decision fallacies, the conjunction fallacy (CF), in a legal decision making task, involving assessing evidence that the same suspect had committed two separate crimes. The information for the two crimes was presented consecutively. Each participant was asked to provide individual ratings for the two crimes in some cases and conjunctive probability rating for both crimes in other cases, after all information had been presented. Overall, 360 probability ratings for guilt were collected from 120 participants, comprised of 40 judges, 40 attorneys and prosecutors, and 40 individuals without legal education. Our results provide evidence for a double conjunction fallacy (in this case, a higher probability of committing both crimes than the probability of committing either crime individually), in the group of individuals without legal education. These results are discussed in terms of their applied implications and in relation to a recent framework for understanding such results, quantum probability theory (QPT).

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: conjunction fallacy, legal decision making, quantum cognition, quantum probability theory, legal psychology
Divisions: School of Social Sciences > Department of Psychology
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/19580

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