Journal of Risk and Uncertainty

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 49–86

Shared Outrage and Erratic Awards: The Psychology of Punitive Damages

  • Daniel Kahneman
  • David Schkade
  • Cass Sunstein

DOI: 10.1023/A:1007710408413

Cite this article as:
Kahneman, D., Schkade, D. & Sunstein, C. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty (1998) 16: 49. doi:10.1023/A:1007710408413


An experimental study of punitive damage awards in personal injury cases was conducted, using jury-eligible respondents. There was substantial consensus on judgments of the outrageousness of a defendant's actions and of the appropriate severity of punishment. Judgments of dollar awards made by individuals and synthetic juries were much more erratic. These results are familiar characteristics of judgments made on unbounded magnitude scales. The degree of harm suffered by the plaintiff and the size of the firm had a pronounced effect on awards. Some judgmental tasks are far easier than others for juries to perform, and reform possibilities should exploit this fact.

Punitive damageslaw and psychologyjury decision making

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Kahneman
    • 1
  • David Schkade
    • 2
  • Cass Sunstein
    • 3
  1. 1.Woodrow Wilson School of Public PolicyPrinceton UniversityPrinceton
  2. 2.University of TexasAustin
  3. 3.University of ChicagoUSA