Tribunal Decision-Making – Why are Oral Hearings so Efficacious?


(Posted originally on January 24, 2017)

The empirical study of tribunal adjudication referred to in the previous post which shows that disability claims are 2.5 times more likely to be successful if the tribunal’s decision follows an oral hearing, also examined why that might be so.

And, contrary to what one suspects some program administrators are prone to think, the study does not suggest that the efficacy of an oral hearing from a claimant’s perspective reflects the likelihood of an adjudicator’s objective judgement being undermined by sympathies provoked by listening to a live rendition of the story from the claimants themselves or by the adjudicator being taken in by misleading body language …

The UCL study’s authors report that in the UK it is generally believed that the most important reason for oral hearings being more efficacious for claimants than written hearings is that the oral hearings produce more information.  And, to test that theory, the study had another group of tribunal panels decide the studied case without an oral hearing but with access to both the original written material and to a written description of the additional information that emerged from the oral hearing.

The Panels that considered the written material enhanced by the additional information provided by the oral hearing, but did not witness the oral hearing, were not quite as likely to grant the claim as the Panels that had the advantage of the oral hearing itself, but it was close –

2.1 times the success rate  for the Panels that did not witness the oral hearing but did see the additional information that emerged from the oral hearing (as compared to the success rate of panels working only with the original written material), versus 2.5 times the success rate with the oral hearing.

As noted in the first post on this subject, the UCL study is to be found at this link:


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