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Sarel: Framing Effects in Proportionality Analysis: Experimental Evidence

Jul 11, 2023 | 12:30 PM

Seminar with Roee Sarel (University of Hamburg)

Prof. Dr. Roee Sarel is a Junior Professor of Private Law and Law & Economics at the Institute of Law & Economics, University of Hamburg. He is both a lawyer and an economist. His dual-background includes a doctorate in Economics from the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management and degrees in law and business (LL.B & M.B.A) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His previous positions include a research associate (post-doc) at the Institute of Law & Economics in Hamburg, a lab manager (post-doc) at the Economics department of the Frankfurt School of Finance, an associate lawyer at a Litigation & Banking department of Yigal Arnon & Co. law firm; and various research and teaching assistant positions in law, economics, and finance. His research combines empirical, experimental, and theoretical methodologies and focuses on topics such as law & technology (e.g. AI, blockchain, and cryptocurrencies), crime, behavioral law and economics, product returns, and judicial decision-making.  He has published in both leading peer-reviewed journals (e.g. Journal of Legal Studies) and top law reviews (e.g. Georgetown Law Journal). More information can be found on his personal website: www.roeesarel.com.

Proportionality analysis (PA), which is widely used by national and international courts to balance between conflicting public goals or private rights, is typically considered to be a rational process. But is it? Does the framing of the legal case affect the decision-making of (judicial) actors? And if so, are legal professionals more or less likely to be affected by the framing?

We analyze theoretically and experimentally how features of PA might influence the outcome of the decision through behavioral effects, such as biases, heuristics, and framing. In the experiment, subjects conduct a PA for legal cases that vary only in their framing, where the wording is designed to nudge subjects to either support or oppose the legal act that is challenged as disproportional. We contrast three groups of subjects: administrative judges, law students, and non-law students.

Our analysis yields three key findings. First, we find evidence of framing effects in PA; second, the effects are mitigated by legal training (non-law students are the most susceptible, followed by law students and then judges) and third, judges demonstrate only weak bias in PA, but do fall prey to other unrelated behavioral effects. The findings thus highlight the importance of framing effects but also the potentially debiasing effect of legal training and professional expertise when in a professional context.

See the full paper on SSRN here.

Time & Location

11 July 2023 | 12:30–2:00 PM
In-person & online
Law School | Garystraße 35 (HFB) | Conference Room II
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