Decision Making of Juries


Group of 12 people randomly selected to make a decision of guilty/not guilty after listening to the evidence.

May have different reasons for why they come to a decision:

Social influences 

Characteristics of the defendant 

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Majority V's Minority influence

Juries can be influenced by other jury members (Majority Influence) as a jury member may feel compelled to agree with the rest of the jury.

Juries may also be influenced by a single jury member (Minority Influence) 

A minority influence is when we comform to others as shown by Asch (1955)

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Why are we influenced?

Evauluation Apprehension could account for a majority influence- anxiety in a person whilst performing a task influences a decision. 

Ideally jurors would go into a trial with a open mind but they often go into deliberations over the verdict.

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Hastie et al (1983)

The verdict of jurorsreflects the majority prior to deliberation.

86% if the final decision was innocent

90% if the final decision was guilty

Jurors naturally assume guilt

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Normative/ Informative

Duetsh and Gerard (1955)- decisions are influenced by our desire to be liked (normative social influence) or our desire to be right (informative social influence)

Kaplan and Miller (1987) found more of a informative social influence. 

Mock trail where the case was fact based. 

We assume people are more intelligent than you and so go along with their answer. 

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why is majority view so influencial:

Smith and Mackie

Varied opinions- produces deeper processing.

Evidience: Hinsz and Davis (1984)- presented groups with a number of different arguements, the greater the shift in opinion. 

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Minority influence

Great affect in influencing decisons as shown by Asch who showed that by having just one person agreeing with you makes you less likely to comform. 

Moscavici(1979)- if you are consistant and committed, acting on principle rather than self gain and are not overly ridgid then people are more likely to comfrom to you.

Supported by Moscavici (1969:

Condition 1: incorrect colour was inconstistantly said and only 1.25% comformed.

Condition 2: incorrect colour was consistantly said, 8% comformed. 

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The Attribution Theory

Helps to explain the effect of minority influence.

Behaviour of the minority is perhaps motivated by deep conviction since they are maintaining an unpopular stand and so attribute their beliefs to internal dispositional causes. 

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Physical Attractiveness

Juries may be swayed by physical attractiveness.

Stewart (1985)- found a corrolation between the actractiveness of the defendant and the punishment given. The least attractive people were given harsher punishments. 

This research involved a corrolation, and so we cannot see cause and effect i.e being good looking makes you a criminal.

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The Halo Effect

Explains how we see people who are physically attractive to have other positive characteristics (smart, kind etc...).

Supported by Saladin et al (1988)- attractive men were considered less likely to have committed a crime than unattractive men.

Halo effect not always consistant. The effect can depend on a number of factors such as the seriousness of the crime. 

Mckeiview and Coley (1993)- attractive defendanrs recieved lenient sentences for burglary, but their looks played no part for more serious crimes like murder. 

Other factors include the gender of the defendant, the gender of the juror and the attractiveness of the victim (Castellow et al 1990)

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Ethnicity influences decisions.

Pfifer and Ogloff (1991)- white participants in a mock tiral were more likely to find a black defendant, rather than white, guilty of ****, especially if the victim was white.

Squire et al (2003)- people with a European skin tone were sentenced to more years in prison than African people, which CONTRADICTS majority research.

Ethic bias can go both ways, with black people finding white people guilty more than they would with a black person. 

Not all evidence shows ethnicity effects jurors.

Mazzella and Feingold (1994)- no overall effect of ethnicity on majority decision of guilt or innocence, although punishment was effected by ethnic group. 

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Attribution can have an effect on jury decisions with regards to ethnicity. 

Johnson et al (2002)- white participants made situational attributions about white defendants. 

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research shows that dispite the rule that defendants should be given a fair trail by jurors, this is not always the case. 

Many studies involve mock juries- issues with ecological validity as it is unlike real life. 

Studies involve students or an opportunity sample- not really representative and so cannot be generalised to everyone. 

Older research (Gordon 1988) can be criticised- overtime opinions, particularily on race, have changed and so research may no longer be relevent.

Strong cultural bias, with most research being carried out in Western countries.

Collectivist cultures may be more swayed by majority influence than in individualistic cultures and so results cannot be applied to other countries. 

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