Counterfactual thinking in mock juror assessments of negligence: A preliminary investigation

Richard L. Wiener, Mauricio Gaborit, Christine C. Pritchard, Erin M. McDonough, Caryn R. Staebler, Deane C. Wiley, Kristen S. Goldkamp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


This Research Report presents an initial attempt to apply the theory of counterfactual thinking to study the cognitive processes that underlie judgments of negligence. Subjects reviewed a summary of an appellate case involving a work accident and listed all the ways in which the accident could have been undone (mutated). Participants' evaluations of the defendant's behavior were influenced by the ease of mutation of the negligent act and other mutations of the defendant's behavior, but not by the number of mutations of the plaintiffs conduct. Exploratory path analysis suggested that counterfactual thinking may have its greatest impact not as a direct influence on verdicts and damages, but rather as an indirect influence impacting verdicts through lower level judgments about the normality of the defendant's behavior and the standard of care. The results also suggest that contrary to the law, subjects base their negligence verdicts on assessments of normal care along with due care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-102
Number of pages14
JournalBehavioral sciences & the law
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law


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