Probability Discounting of Legal and non-Legal Scenarios: Discounting Varies as a Function of the Outcome, the Recipient’s Race, and the Discounter’s Sex

Jeffrey N. Weatherly, Andre Kehn


The majority of criminal cases are decided through plea bargaining and probability discounting (i.e., the change in the value of an outcome as it becomes less probable) may aid in the understanding of this process.  University students were asked to complete a probability-discounting task involving three legal and two monetary outcomes.  Groups were divided in terms of the race of the recipient of the outcome and the participant’s sex.  Results showed that the crime of murder was discounted more steeply than the other scenarios, that the predictions of the leading theory of plea bargaining (i.e., decision theory) were inaccurate, and that males and females discounted differently (only) when the recipient was African American (regardless of the type of outcome).  The present results have theoretical and practical implications and should serve highlight the utility of studying plea bargaining within a probability-discounting framework.


Probability discounting, Plea bargaining, Race, Sex, University students

Full Text:



Published by the University of Illinois at Chicago Library

And Behaviorists for Social Responsibility