Adjusting legal standards

Shay Lavie*, Tal Ganor, Yuval Feldman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper seeks to explore whether the interpretation of legal standards is influenced by decision-makers’ substantive decision. Prior literature on motivated reasoning has shown that decision-makers “shift” their perception of evidence in their desired direction. To the extent this logic applies to legal-standards, we should expect decision-makers to adjust the perception of the legal standard accordingly—e.g., one’s decision to favor the plaintiff would induce a pro-plaintiff interpretation of the required threshold to win a case. We present the results of two experiments in which we asked subjects to report their interpretation of the applicable legal threshold after deciding a case, under different legal thresholds. Our participants, by and large, did not shift the legal standard to conform to their substantive decision, contrary to the theoretical expectations. We thus conclude that decision-makers treat the legal standard distinctly than regular evidence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-53
Number of pages21
JournalEuropean Journal of Law and Economics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • Coherence-shifts
  • Dismissal standards
  • Empirical legal studies
  • Legal thresholds
  • Twombly


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