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CCN Brown Bag Series

Wednesday, October 17, 2018,

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  • Location: Wilson Hall • 111 21St Ave S • Nashville, TN 37240
  • Room: 115

Lauren Hartsough

Department of Psychology (Marois Lab)

Vanderbilt University

"A Psychometric Approach to Decision-Making Thresholds Across Legal Standards and Societal Domains"

A fundamental question in decision-making is what constitutes enough evidence to make a choice between options. The United States legal system instructs individuals on the decision thresholds they must apply. For civil trials, a preponderance of the evidence (PoE) is required while criminal trials require the more stringent threshold of beyond a reasonable doubt (BaRD). It is unclear, however, how these thresholds are applied by laypeople and how they compare to subjects' intuitive decisions in both legal and non-legal domains. Here we applied psychometric function analyses to assess and compare decision thresholds across instruction-type in both legal and non-legal contexts. We further validated this approach by comparing the same decision thresholds using psychophysical stimuli commonly analyzed using psychometric functions. We found a consistent pattern using both legal scenarios, non-legal scenarios, and psychophysical stimuli: individuals' intuitive responses were less stringent than both legal standards, and PoE was interpreted less stringently than BaRD. Thresholds were also more stringent for legal versus non-legal contexts. This research demonstrates the usefulness of using a psychometric approach for comparing complex decision thresholds across societal domains.