Study of the Effects of Anchorage in Judicial Judgements in Child Custody Dispute Proceedings




anchorage, heuristics, judicial sentences, cognitive activity, custody dispute


Judicial judgment and decision making should be sus­tained in formal or statistical reasoning, avoiding biased reasoning. Thus, judicial reasoning should not contain any bias. A profusely studied source of bias is anchorage implying a cognitive saving by accepting the initial hy­pothesis without confirming it and rejecting other infor­mation or alternative hypotheses though they may be rel­evant to the task at hand. As for knowing the prevalence and effects of anchored sentences in family cases’ judi­cial sentences, 811 Spanish custody dispute sentences were randomly selected from the CENDOJ data base. Anchorage was measured through initial claimant in child custody dispute (first instance court) or prior judi­cial decision-making (appeal court). The results stated that 70.2 % of the judicial sentences were anchored. A systematic content analysis of the sentences gave support to the hypothesis that anchorage provides judges and courts a skill to save cognitive activity (about 12 %). Moreover, anchored sentences contained significantly fewer reasoning favourable to custody; fewer idiosyn­cratic information i.e., own reasoning of the judge; and fewer contextual information i.e., less evidence-based. The implications for judicial judgment and decision are discussed, as well as the possibilities to control the an­chorage prevalence in judicial sentences. 


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Author Biographies

Francisca Fariña, Universidade de Vigo

Departamento AIPSE, Universidade de Vigo, España.

Laura Redondo, Universidade de Vigo

Departamento AIPSE, Universidade de Vigo, España.

Tania Corrás, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela

Unidade de Psicoloxía Forense, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, España

Manuel Vilariño, Universidad de Zaragoza

Departamento de Psicología y Sociología, Universidad de Zaragoza, España.


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How to Cite

Fariña, F., Redondo, L., Corrás, T., & Vilariño, M. (2017). Study of the Effects of Anchorage in Judicial Judgements in Child Custody Dispute Proceedings. Acción Psicológica, 14(2), 147–156.



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