“German Judges with an average of more than fifteen years of experience on the bench first read a description of a women who had been caught shoplifting, then rolled a pair of dice that were loaded so every roll resulted in either a 3 or a 9. As soon as the dice came to a stop, the judges were asked whether they would sentence the women to a term in prison greater of lesser, in months than the number showing on the dice. Finally, the judges were instructed to specify the exact prison sentence they would give to the shoplifter. On average those who rolled a 9 said they would sentence her to 8 months; those who rolled a 3 said they would sentence her to 5 months, the anchoring effect was 50%.”
It is a pretty uncomfortable study for the legal profession, so what is going on?
In general terms the anchor is acting like a reference point and the mind adjusts off that reference point to find an answer. The problem is that the mind seems to stop too early and stops at the periphery of where the number should be. The amazing part about this study is that it shows that the anchor does not need to relate to the issue been considered. After all there is no logical connection between the number on the dice and the award of damages.
Clients hire lawyers for their legal knowledge but at the core they are hired to get results. What good are all those IQ points and long hours studying cases and legislation if it does not translate to better results for the client?
The case above demonstrates that other considerations, beyond just the legal argument, can have a major impact on the outcome of a case.
Lawyers need to draw on other skills and knowledge and integrate it with their legal knowledge to get the best results. This includes understanding the anchor effect on a judge during the litigation process or on the other side in a commercial deal.