Experience may not improve judgement

By James Zuccollo 12/05/2013

We’ve all met hardened cynics in our professional lives. Those people who think the worst of those they meet at every turn because they’ve been burned so many times. They give nobody the benefit of the doubt and look down on new staff for their hopelessly naivety and gullibility. The question posed by a group of researchers in the latest EJ is whether judges are similarly afflicted by experience.

They take a panel of UK Competition Commission decisions from 1970–2003 and evaluate the effect of the chairman’s experience on the probability of an adverse finding. Using a panel of that size allows them to control for various effects such as the chairman’s age.

Using a unique data set of companies investigated under UK competition law, we find very strong experience effects for chairmen of investigation panels, estimated from the increase in experience of individual chairman. Probit and IV probit regressions indicate that replacing an inexperienced chairman with one of average experience increases the probability of a ‘guilty’ outcome by approximately 30% and, after chairing around 30 cases, a chairman is predicted to find almost every case guilty.