Insightful or wishful: Lawyers' ability to predict case outcomes

Jane Goodman-Delahunty, P.A. Granhag, M. Hartwig, E.F. Loftus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Citations (Scopus)


Lawyers' litigation forecasts play an integral role in the justice system. In the course of litigation, lawyers constantly make strategic decisions and/or advise their clients based on their perceptions and predictions of case outcomes. The study investigated the realism in predictions by a sample of attorneys (n=481) across the USA who specified a minimum goal to achieve in a case set for trial. They estimated their chances of meeting this goal by providing a confidence estimate. After the cases were resolved, case outcomes were compared with the predictions. Overall, lawyers were overconfident in their predictions, and calibration did not increase with years of legal experience. Female lawyers were slightly better calibrated than their male counterparts, and showed evidence of less overconfidence. In an attempt to reduce overconfidence, some lawyers were asked to generate reasons why they might not achieve their stated goals. This manipulation did not improve calibration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-157
Number of pages25
JournalPsychology, Public Policy, and Law
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2010


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