What Influences the Court Process?
What Influences the Court Process?
Individual gives up personal views under group pressure
- conforms to avoid group rejection but disagrees with decision. Trying to be 'normal' in group
y- conforms to group norms because individual can't make decision, eg. doesn't understand legal technicalities of the case, or has insuficient knowledge of English language, so looks to group for guidance
An individual or small minority can influence the jury decision, especially the case if they're committed and consistent in their opinions, and seem to be acting on principle rather than for self-gain.
A reduction in individual effort on a group task- some individuals not motivated to be on jury so try and reduce deliberation time and let other jury members contribute more to the final decision
- foreperson presents jury decision to judge. Perceived as leader so jury may be influenced by their argument, especially if they have an authoritarian personality.
A criminal case is often documented in the media before it goes to trial. Members of the jury may form an opinion of the case and identifies suspects long before the trial
can influence juries who are exposed to pre-trial information, as they try to make sense of the information using their own schemas. During trial, a jurors schema can alter their perception of the evidence given in court
2 types of info
includes incriminating information about the defendant or the case eg. what happened during the crime
may not contain incriminating information, but it information that could arouse negative emotions, eg. information about defendant/victim's past. Has a longer lasting impact on jury than factual information
Steblay et al 1999
investigated the effects of pre-trial publicity on juror verdicts - meta analysis of 44 empirical tests representing over 5000 subjects. 'Jurors' exposed to negative pre-trial publicity were significantly more likely to judge the defendant guilty compared to those exposed to less or no negative pre-trial publicity. This was still the case when there was a greater length of time between exposure to publicity and the trial
Ogloff and Vidmar 1994
investigated television as a form of pre-trial publicity. Found that those exposed to negative pre-trial publicity did express negative bias to the defendant, and were unaware of the bias they held. Raises concerns in era of 24 hour television news.
Alot of this research is conducted using mock trial (often with students as pps) this is not a representative sample of the population. Also a real jury's decision can have a serious impact of the life of the defendant and their family therefore real jurys may be more cautious and take the process more seriously than a mock jury
Different countries have different legal processes, eg. America has death penalty which may make the jury think more seriously before giving a guilty verdict. Can't generalise studies to all cultures..
Characteristics of the Defendant
Bradbury and Williams 2013
Used data from real trials in 4 American states
Black defendant ↓ conviction rate with ↑ blacks on jury
Black defendant ↑ conviction rate with ↑ white/ Hispanic jury
EVAL: ↑ ecological validity as used real trials, however the data used may not be representative of all trials, findings may be a result of EVs such as quality of evidence ↓ generalisability
Sholnick and Shaw 1997
research into effects of race- found black defendants received less guilty verdicts regardless of racial mix of jury- white jurors did not want to appear racist.
Sigall and Osgrove 1975
Asked pps to recommend a sentence for mock defendant 'Barbara'. Wanted to find out whether physical attractiveness would affect juror decisions based on the crime she was convicted of.
They found that when a crime was NOT related to attractiveness eg burglary unattractive people were given harsher sentences. But when crime WAS related to attractiveness (fraud, using looks to con people) attractive defendants given harsher sentences.
HOWEVER not applicable to real trial as judge decides sentence
Saladin et al 1998
Pps shown 8 photos of different men and asked to rate how capable they were of committing s violent crime. Unattractive men considered more likely to commit violent crime than attractive men.
Dixon and Mahoney 1997
pps given a tape recording with different accents and a transcript . Those with a strong Birmingham accent more likely to be considered guilty using a mock-trial method. Black defendant with B'ham accent seen as more guilty than whites with same strong accent. All pps white non-B'ham students. Study repeated in 2002 and 2004 with same results ↑ reliability
It is difficult to establish cause and effect because the experimental research doesn't control extraneous variables that may influence their decision making- therefore cannot say for sure that defendant's characteristcs influence decision making
Factors other than defendant characteristics that can influence decision making include:
Defendant may remind jurors of someone they know
Jury's past experience of a similar offence may bias their decision
A jury member may not be sure if the defendant is guilty or not leading to informational conformity
Research investigating race and accent is typically done in controlled settings eg. lab. This is not a realistic jury setting ↓ ecological validity, real juries may react differently in real life settings
However a lab setting allows for greater control of the info presented, helping researchers place emphasis on specific variables, eg accent