By Steven G. Mehta

Which one convinces you more?  If I told you that 90% of the time people lose their medical malpractice actions or that 9 out of 10 people lose their medical malpractice actions.

Many of you are saying, there is a  no difference.  90% and 9/10 are the same thing.  This is where you are wrong 90% of the time.

The human brain is hardwired to make short circuit decisions all the time. There is automatic programming that occurs in making decisions.  Otherwise, we would be mired in making decisions.

A new study has discovered that people would prefer large numbers over smaller numbers.  The study found that people prefer to receive shipped items in 31 days rather than the same period of one month.  In fact, the subjects were willing to pay more money to receive something in 31 days instead of a month.

In one of the tests, the researchers used two different scales, either 1-10 or 1-1,000, to describe television quality and the success rate of a medical procedure; they also fed the subjects warranty lengths in either months or years. Even when the length of time was the same—seven versus nine years, or 94 versus 108 months—the subjects tended to prefer the bigger number. The same thing happened for medical procedures, where an equivalent effectiveness was preferred when it was rated on a thousand-point scale. (QUOTED FROM The “unit effect” makes 31 days seem better than a month).

This concept is also known as the Unit Effect Bias.  In other words, people prefer higher numbers rather than lower numbers even though the actual unit is still the same.  For example, 1 liter versus 1000 milliliters; 1 month versus 30 days; quarter of a million versus 250,000.

This concept is something that attorneys and mediators should consider when discussing settlement options.  Perhaps the settlement terms of payment; maybe the amount of the settlement — 100,000 versus 6 figures; or 2 weeks versus 14 days.

The reality is that in negotiations it is important to understand that our brain may work in many irrational ways.


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