Booklet 4: Psychology and the Courtroom (Key research: Dixon et al (2002)…
Booklet 4: Psychology and the Courtroom
Psychology and the courtroom
Jury made up of 12 ordinary members of the public aged 18-70. In UK electoral register used to select people. Job of prosecution is to persuade 12 jury members that the defendant is guilty. Not the job of the defence to prove innocence. Reasonable to suggest final decisions may be affected in same way that affect everyday decisions about people we meet.
Mock trial methods used, manipulating variables to see effects. Sometimes trial is presented as transcript or audio/video recording. Ethicqal and standardised way of testing effects and conditions of courtroom trial. However, undergrads used as pp ad don't reflect characteristics of a real jury.
How juries can be persuaded by the characteristics of witnesses and defendants
Juries decision affected by witness confidence, race and attractiveness of defendant, impacting how a jury views a witness. Legal teams can coach clients and witnesses to appear attractive so look at dress, speech and posture.
Studies have shown those who are physically attractive receive more lenient sentences than those who are less attractive. Link to childhood and fairytales. Current stories may no longer follow this rule. First impressions are known as the halo effect, cognitive bias which judgements of a character influenced by impression. Beautiful outgoing and friendly, less attractive shy/ reserved. In courtrooms theoretically attractive people more likely to be honest, more important and more likely to have brighter futures.
Castellow (1990) 'Effects of physical attractivness of victim and defendant in sexual harrassment judgements'
Aimed to test hypothesis that attractive defendant less likely to seen as guilty. 145 psychology students, lab experiment. Sexual harrassment case was read, shown photograph, half shown attractive other half shown unattractive. Conclusion was that attractiveness did have an impact.
These results were found because those more physically attractive may be liked more so can lead to lenient sentence. However jury may see defendant as abusing attractiveness and so they may give a harsher sentence . In unattractive defendant cases given harsher punishment.
Key research: Dixon et al (2002) Accents of guilt: Effects of regional accent, race and crime attributions of guilt
Dixon et al. accents affect impressions of them, with standard accents being rated more positively than non-standard accents. Using the Brummie accent as receives more negative evaluations compared to standard British accents. To test that Brummie suspects receive higher rating of guilt than standard.
119 white undergraduate psychology students from University of Worcester.
1) Accent (Birmingham/ standard)
2) Race (black/white)
3)Type of crime (armed robbery- blue collar/ cheque fraud - white collar)
Participants' attributions to guilt
pp listened to a 2 minute recorded transcript of interview taken place in Birmingham police station (1995). Conversation between police and a male suspect in 20's who could speak both accents. Then manipulated based on crime committed. Race manipulated by description. 2 rating scales.
'Brummie' accent rated lower on superiority and rated as more guilty than standard accent suspect. Interaction between Brummie accent/black suspect/blue collar worker sig higher guilt findings for combo of variables.
Range of social psychological factors can influence perception of a suspect's guilt including accent, race and type of crime.
Application: Strategies to influence jury decision making
Strategies are used to focus on how jurors can be persuaded not to consider personal characteristics of defendant, take objective view of evidence to help make decision.
Using an expert witness to persuade the jury
called to give evidence, focussing on factors that limit accuracy of testimony and can persuade a jury that eyewitness testimony is unreliable.
Loftus (1980) aimed investigate influence that expert witnesses have on jury decision making. 120pp's, split into groups of 6 given booklet and instructions, hypothetical violent crime with a hypothetical crime and summary of trial. Half groups read expert witness testimony outlining inaccuracy of eye witness identification: Difficulties recognising members of another race, the negative effects of stress on memory recall and weapon focus.
Each asked to deliberate 30 mins, Less conviction in expert witness testimony had been given. Expert testimony makes jurors more sceptical about eyewitness testimony to convict a suspect. More critical of eyewitness identification and less likely to give a guilty verdict. Expert witness incredibly influential in court setting encourage jurors to overlook things or ignore it. If they're used can persuade the jury because told to agree authority figures.
Effect of shields and videotape on children giving evidence
Sexual abuse, kidnapping and domestic violence child/victim may be only witness. As it's traumatic giving evidence done behind a screen or via video link to reduce psychological stress. However, having witness give evidence that way suggest likelihood of guilt to a jury and so needs protecting.
Ross et al (1994) Aimed to find out if it does imply guilt of defendant and whether shields affect credibility of witness. 300 psychology students watched mock trial, 3 IV's child in full view, behind a screen and video link. Judge read a warning before screen/video used to say to not imply guilt.
Findings: no sig difference between 3 conditions when giving verdict. No difference in credibility. When judge's warnings given no disadvantage to defendants with the conditions therefore not impacting on decisions. Has implications for courtroom means they can still be used.
Another witness persuade a jury, Common for witness to hesitate or be uncertain when answering questions. When witness is confident so is the jury. Penrod & Cutler (1995) used mock trial to research this. Mock trial of a robbery to pp's, eyewitness identification key to trial. Testified either 80% or 100% confident, at 100% the conviction rate was 67% whereas 60% in other case. The more confident a witness the more likely to be believed.
Stewart (1985) Appearance and punishment
Negative correlation between attractiveness and severity of punishment. Concluded the more attractive less likely they are to be given a severe punishment. Those who aren't white are more likely to be convicted, more likely charged with violent crimes, and more likely to be sentenced.
Another factor is language used by defendants. Lackoff (1975) using 'I think' or 'Perhaps' rise of intonation as though asking a question. Perceived as less intelligent, less competent, less likeable, less believable.