Can Online Juries Make Consistent, Repeatable Decisions?

Xinlan Emily Hu, Mark Whiting, Michael Bernstein
CHI: ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 2021
A jury of one’s peers is a prominent way to adjudicate disputes and is increasingly used in participatory governance online. The fairness of this approach rests on the assumption that juries are consistent: that the same jury would hand down similar judgments to similar cases. However, prior literature suggests that social influence would instead cause early interactions to cascade into different judgments for similar cases. In this paper, we report an online experiment that changes participants’ pseudonyms as they appear to collaborators, temporarily masking a jury’s awareness that they have deliberated together before. This technique allows us to measure consistency by reconvening the same jury on similar cases. Counter to expectation, juries are equally consistent as individuals, a result that is “good for democracy.” But this consistency arises in part due to group polarization, as consensus develops by hardening initial majority opinions. Furthermore, we find that aggregating groups’ perspectives without deliberation erodes consistency.