Salience and the severity versus the certainty of punishment
International Review of Law and Economics
A common presumption, supported by some empirical evidence, is that the certainty of punishment is a more effective deterrent than the severity of punishment. In rational decision making models of crime, this presumption implies that offenders must be risk-seeking. Some scholars claim that this and other anomalous implications are caused by the exclusion of various behavioral considerations in theoretical analyses. This article investigates whether a model in which criminals over-weigh probabilities attached to more salient payoffs (as the term is used by Bordalo, Gennaioli, and Shleifer in a series of influential articles) performs better than simple expected utility theory in explaining criminal behavior that is more responsive to the certainty than the severity of punishment. The analysis reveals that the answer is negative unless the probability of punishment is unreasonably high. This finding suggests that we should exercise caution in incorporating salience – a la Bordalo et al. – in models of criminal behavior.
Murat C. Mungan,
Salience and the severity versus the certainty of punishment,
Int'l Rev. L. & Econ.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.tamu.edu/facscholar/1850