Criminal psychology-Topic 4 (Dixon et al (Aim: to study the hypotheses…
Criminal psychology-Topic 4
How the court system works
Under the system of trial by jury, the defendant is judged to be guilty, or not, by a jury of his or her peers. There are 12 jurors who are ordinary people aged between 18 and 70, selected from the electoral register.
In the UK and USA an adversarial system is used in jury trials. The crown is represented by the prosecution lawyer and the defendant is represented by a defence lawyer. The court is procided over by a judge. The job of the prosecution is to persuade the 12 jury members the defendan is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and the task of the defence is to persuade the jury that the prosection has failed to do this.
Stages in a trial
First, the prosecution makes their case and witnesses are called to the stand give evidence against defendant. The defence lawyer can cross examine these witnesses. The the defence presents their case. After the defence rests its case the prosecution sums up their case for the jury and so does the defence. The jury retires to discuss the case and decide on a verdict. This is then given to the judge who informs the defendant of the result. It is the judge who decides the sentence if guilty. If not guilty they are acquitted
- inforation we hear first tends to stick in more so more likely to influcence their decicion. In this case the prosecutions case is heard first so is more likely to stick in
Research investigating what factors can persuade a jury
Conducting research into the psychology of the courtroom generally involves the mock trial method, where participants play the role of jurors. Sometimes the trial is presented as a transcript or as an audio. The task for the 'jurors' is to make their own individual decision on the verdict. This provides and ethical and standardised way of testing various effects. .
lack ecological validity
and do not reflect actual conditions of a court. There's often
, as students are regularly used as participants so do not reflect the characteristics of a real jury
How juries can be persuaded by the characteristics of witnesses and defendants
1.Attractiveness of defendants/witnesses:
is where our judgements of a persons character is influenced by our first impression of them, how we view that person holistically. Studies show that people who are physically attractive recieve more lenient sentences. So legal teams often coach their clients to appear attractive.
: studied 145 psychology students in lab experiment. When the defendant was
, guilty verdicts were found
of the time compared to
: correlation and found that the more attractive an offender is, the less likely they are to be given such a severe punishment.
2.Race of defendant:
found that non-white defendants were more likely to be convicted and more likely to be charged wih violent crimes. Suggests that a racial bias exists in the justice system.
found that if murder a white person more likely to get death penalty then if murder black. If more stereotypically black more likely to get death penalty than less stereotypically black.
3. Witness confidence:
It would be common for a witness to hesitate, sweat etc. When a witness is confident, the jury gain confidence in what they are saying and believe it to be more accurate. Pernod & Cutler used mock trial n found when witness was 100% confident the conviction rate was
when the witness was 80% confident.
found that people who used frequent hedges whilst talking (i think) were perceived as less intelligence and less believable.
pointed out that research shown peoples accent have an effect on the impression that others form. People with standard accent are rated more positively than non standard accents on traits like competence n intelligence.
Dixon et al
to study the hypotheses that Brummie accent suspect would receive a higher rating of guilt than a suspect with standard accent. Aimed to see whether race or type of crime would make a difference on how brummie or standard suspect was judged.
119 white undergrad psychology students from Uni of Worcester. 24M 95F with a mean age of 25.2 years. as course requirements
1)accent: birmingham/standard 2) race: black/white 3)type of crime: armed robbery (blue collar)/cheque fraud (white collar)
participants attributions of guilt
listened to a 2 min recording. In all conditions middle age male police inspector (standard accent) n young male suspect (brummie/standard accent). Different types of crime manipulated by one tape where he was accused of armed robbery n another where he was accused of cheque fraud. The race of the suspects was manipulated by altering the inspectors description of suspect.
The brummie suspect was rated lower on superiority.
The brummie suspect was rated as more guilty than the standard accent suspect .
There was an interaction between Brummie accent/black suspect/blue collar worker with significantly higher guilt findings for this combo. Suspects rating of guilt were predicted by their ratings of superiority and attractiveness.
A range of social psychological factors can influence perception of a suspects guilt including accent, race and type of crime.
Suspects who speak in non-standard English they are more likely to be found guilty of a crime.
After listening to their version participants completed two sets of rating scale. The first rated the suspect on a 7-point scale from innocent to guilty. The second used the
speech evaluation instrument (SEI)
which measures language on 3 dimensions:superiority, attractiveness n dynamism.
Application:Strategies to influence jury decision making
Impression management/ coaching:
It is the usual for defendants to be advised by their barrister to dress formally and to be neatly groomed with no visible tattoos in court. Aim is to give the jury a good first impression n to avoid being judged negatively on appearance. Encouraged to refrain from using slang n avoid ums and ahs. This links to the halo effect where first impressions are vital.
Using an expert witness to persuade jury:
Expert testimony tends to focus on the factors that limit or restrict the accuracy of testimony and can often persuade a jury that an eyewitness is unreliable. Loftus carried out a study where all read a summary of violent crime but half also read an expert witness testimony,
outlining why eyewitness testimony identification can be inaccurate including: difficulties recognising members of another race, the negative effects of stress on memory recall, weapon focus.
Findings showed there was less conviction votes where had an expert witness testimony and more aqquital votes. Much higher conviction rate in no expert testimony group.
Effect of shields and videotape on children giving evidence:
In many cases, generally involving children, shields (screens n video links0 are often used to minimise the stress experienced by the witness/ victim. It is possible that this could be used as a way to minimise the impact that witness/defendant appearance/attractiveness has on the jury. It is possible to have all witness n defendant give evidence from behind a screen so that the jury cannot make a judgement based on the attractiveness/appearance.
If expert witnesses are used they can have a persuasive effect on a jury because we are socialised from an early age to agree with authority figures.