29 November 2007

Punitive damages

From Overcoming Bias: Unbounded Scales, Huge Jury Awards, & Futurism.

Apparently jurors are able to consistently rank-order the amount of money that they think should be given as damages in various cases -- they can say "I think person A deserves more money than person B", and other people will agree with them. And it seems implied in the post (although it's never actually stated) that they're fairly consistent in things like "I think person A deserves twice as much money as person B". But their assignments of dollar amounts to people are all over the map.

(If you're thinking "jurors always give ridiculous amounts in punitive damages!", that might be because the media seems to like the really out-there cases, like the guy who sued his dry cleaners for $54 million because they ruined his pants. He didn't get the money. I am not a lawyer, but I suspect that the amounts given in damages in most cases are more reasonable-sounding, if only because the people on juries are people like you and me.)

Similar things might hold for predictions of the future -- people are better at guessing the order in which the future will unfold than the speed at which it will unfold.

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