Friday, June 19, 2009

Opinion and Persuasion

Can you imagine Lee Epstein and Richard Posner in the same room.

Nope. I can't.

Inferring the Winning Party in the Supreme Court from the Pattern of Questioning at Oral Argument

Lee Epstein, William Landes & Richard Posner University of Chicago Working
Paper, May 2009

Chief Justice John Roberts, and others, have noticed that the lawyer in an oral argument in the Supreme Court who is asked more questions than his opponent is likely to lose the case. This paper provides rigorous statistical tests of that hypothesis and of the related hypothesis that the number of words per question asked, as distinct from just the number of questions asked, also predicts the outcome of the case. We explore the theoretical basis for these hypotheses. Our analysis casts light on competing theories of judicial behavior, which we call the 'legalistic' and the 'realistic.' In the former, the questioning of counsel is a search for truth; in the latter, it is a strategy for influencing colleagues. Our
analysis helps to distinguish between these hypotheses by relating questioning practices to the individual Justice’s ideology and to the role of a 'swing' Justice.


Strategies for Revising Judgment: How (and How Well) People Use Others'

Jack Soll & Richard Larrick
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, May
2009, Pages 780-805

A basic issue in social influence is how best to change one's judgment in response to learning the opinions of others. This article examines the strategies that people use to revise their quantitative estimates on the basis of the estimates of another person. The authors note that people tend to use 2 basic strategies when revising estimates: choosing between the 2 estimates and averaging them. The authors developed the probability, accuracy, redundancy (PAR) model to examine the relative effectiveness of these two strategies across judgment environments. A surprising result was that averaging was the more effective strategy across a wide range of commonly encountered environments. The authors observed that despite this finding, people tend to favor the choosing strategy. Most participants in these studies would have achieved greater accuracy had they always averaged. The identification of intuitive strategies, along with a formal analysis of when they are accurate, provides a basis for examining how effectively people use the judgments of others. Although a portfolio of strategies that includes averaging and choosing can be highly effective, the authors argue that people are not generally well adapted to the environment in terms of strategy selection.