The effects of defendant remorse on mock juror decisions in a malpractice case

Behav Sci Law. 2002;20(4):393-409. doi: 10.1002/bsl.496.


The purpose of this study was to observe the effects of defendant remorse on monetary damages awarded to a plaintiff in a malpractice case. In two experiments, the physician-defendant expressed remorse at the time of the incident and again at trial, expressed remorse at trial, explicitly demonstrated a lack of remorse at trial, or made no mention of remorse (or a lack thereof). Participants decided how much money to award to the plaintiff and evaluated both the plaintiff and the defendant on several dimensions. Participants awarded greater compensation when the physician expressed remorse at the time of the incident than in the other conditions, both when the plaintiff was the injured patient's spouse in a wrongful death suit (experiment 1) and when the patient sued on his own behalf (experiment 2). This effect of remorse was greater for males than for females (experiment 1) and for relatively severely injured plaintiffs (experiment 2).

MeSH terms

  • Attitude
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Jurisprudence
  • Male
  • Malpractice / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • United States