Framing Effects in Proportionality Analysis: Experimental Evidence

We analyze theoretically and experimentally how features of proportionality analysis (PA) influence judicial decisions through behavioral effects. Subjects conduct a PA for cases that vary only in their framing, which nudges subjects to either support or oppose the act challenged as disproportional. We contrast three groups: administrative judges, law students, and non-law students. We find clear evidence of framing effects in some (but not all) contexts, as well as some differences between law and non-law students: (i) when the act’s purpose is framed as securing a gain (rather than avoiding a loss), non-law students were likelier to view the act as disproportional; conversely, (ii) when the act was framed as yielding a certain loss (rather than a certain gain), both law and non-law students were likelier to view it as disproportional. Our findings highlight the importance of framing but also the potentially debiasing effect of legal training.