4 - Psychology and the Courtroom
4 - Psychology and the Courtroom
Key Research - Dixon et al (2002)
: Suggests peoples accents have an effect on the impression they give off. Standard accents are rated more positively on competence and intelligence.
Legal context (Seggie 1983) - RP, broad Australian and Asian were tested. Assessment of guilt made - e.g. Australia (rated higher guilt ratings for assault - blue collar) and RP (rated higher guilt ratings for theft - white collar).
: Test hyothesis of a Brummie accent would produce stronger attributions of guild than stand accent. Alos, whether race/type of crime would affect this.
119 White psychology students from University of Worcester (24m, 95f), mean age = 25.2yrs.
- Lab experiment with 3 IV's (accent, race, type of crime). Pp's listened to 2 minute police transcript, with middle aged,male police inspector and young male suspect. Rated the likely guilt of accused on 7 point scale from innocent to guilty and the speech evaluation instrument.
Superiority (Brummie suspect scored lower)
- Brummie suspect rated as more guilty than the standard suspect
Brummie, black and blue collar - significantly higher guilt findings
- Accent has a significant effect on judgements of guilt or innocence.
EVALUATION OF RESEARCH
- Provides evidence that accent/type of crime/race have impact on being perceived as guilty. Judges need to be aware of these so factors don’t affect decision.
- Finds have potential impact on groups (Brummies, black people, working class people) which may led to discrimination in legal context.
Low ecological validity
- Race of suspect is suggested and no other evidence presented like real life legal proceedings.
Characteristics of Witnesses/Defendants
Studies show that people who are more physically attractive receive more lenient sentences as they appear more honest. Children - we learn the beautiful are good and the ugly are bad e.g. Cinderella. Halo effect is a cognitive bias in which our judgements of a persons character is influenced on the way they look.
- 145 psychology students took part in a mock trial which they gained extra credit for. Read a sexual harassment case, then shown a photo (one attractive, one unattractive). Asked to decide guilty or not guilty. Results: Attractive (56%) Unattractive (76%)
Witness confidence, socio-economical status, race and the attractiveness
of the defendant affects juridical decisions. How they dress, speak and even their posture in the witness box are extra-legal factors
Penrod and Cutler (1995)
- If witness was 100% confident - conviction rate was 67%, if witness was 80% - conviction rate was 60%
- Negative correlation between attractiveness and severity of punishment. Results: more attractive, less severe. Racial bias - Non whites are more likely to be convicted (with violent crimes). Lakoff theory of hedges, intonation etc appear less intelligent and believable.
Made up of 12 ordinary members of the public (aged between 18-70). Can't be a part if in prison or have mental illness
Adversarial system - the crown is represented by the prosecution lawyer and the defendant is represented by lawyers for defence.
Prosecution make their case against defendant - with witnesses 2. Defence present their case 3. Both sum up their case 4. Jury decide on verdict 5. Charging or let go
Application from Study
Strategies to influence jury decision making
- advised to be formally dressed and neatly groomed with no visible tattoos. The aim is to give a jury a good first impression and avoid being judged negatively due to appearance. Focus on how to view case objectively
Using expert witness
- expert psychologists can be called upon to give evidence about psychological variables affecting the accuracy of eyewitness testimonies and can persuade a jury an eyewitness is unreliable. Loftus (1980) study with 120 students Washington. Read case and half read about unreliable factors
Effects of shields and videotape on children giving evidence
- In crimes such as kidnapping and sexual abuse a child may be the only witness. To reduce psychological stress, children can be an eyewitness by a video link or behind a screen. However it may lead to the jury believing the child is guilty due to needing to be away from the defendant. Ross et al (1994) - 300 psychology students, found that there is no significant difference across conditions when judge makes the jury aware.
When studying courtrooms mock trial, lab methods are used. Manipulating variables in a real jury is neither ethical or practical. This provides an ethical and standardised way. However, it lacks ecological validity as it isn't in a natural setting
DEBATES OF B4
Psychology as a science
- Courtroom processes are investigated using lab experiments (standardised, manipulation of IV e.g. accent etc).
Review court procedures from previous cases.
- Judging characteristics on sentences e.g. more harshly. Stereotypes and legal system isn't fair due to subjective bias
- Intervention can occur, making justice system more fair (not affected by disadvantaged background, age, gender, characteristics).
- Context of courtroom (characteristics)