Decision Making of Juries

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Physical Characteristics

  • Made up of 12 jurors between the age of 18-70, decide if someone's guilty.
  • There are two factors that can influence them; social influence and characteristics of the defendant.
  • Attractive defendants are more likely to be acquitted or recieve lighter sentences. Baron and Byrne (1997) suggested this was due to the 'beautiful is good' stereotype. Attractive physical features seem to be associated with positive psychological features. In the same way unattractive features has an impact on the decision.
  • Michelini and Snodgrass (1980) found physically attractive defendents were more likely to be acquitted. Stewart et al (1980) conducted an observational study of America's judge decisions regarding 74 male offenders. They found attractive defendents were more likely to not recieve prison sentences or recieve lighter ones. Research by Kerr (1980) found similar results looking into 1500 cases with 40 judges, settling fines or bail.
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Factors affecting physical attractiveness effect

There are factors that affect influence the effect of physical attractiveness on jury decision making;

  • The seriousness of the crime. McKelvie and Coley (1993) found attractive defendants get lesser sentences for crimes like burglary but the effect stops for more serious crimes.
  • Gender of the defendant: physical attractiveness has more effect for female defendants, particularly if the crime is serious but non-fatal (Quigley et al 1995)
  • Signall and Istrove (1975) found attractive defendants recieve higher sentences for fraud (it is assumed they used their looks to commit the crime).
  • Castellow et al (1990) found relative attractiveness between the victim and the defendant in sexual harassment cases is important.
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  • Duncan (1976) varied the ethnic group of the victim and perpetrator in a video of a potentially violent situation. Participants judged the ambiguous shove as more violent when the perpetrator was black.
  • In a mock jury situation Pfeifer and Ogloff (1991) found white jurors were more likely to judge a black defendant guilty in a **** case, especially when the victim was white. However Mazella and Feingold (1994) found no overall effect of ethnicity on mock juries, questioning the external reliability of previous studies.
  • Gordon et al (1988) found longer sentences were given to black defendants of burglary, however the reverse was true for fraud.
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Social Pressure

Conforming - adopting attitudes, beliefs or behaviours due to real or imagined group pressure. Majority influence suggests that people want to be liked, they don't want to go against others for fear of rejection.

  • Asch's research showed that conformity levels were affected by the size of the group; with just one confederate the naive participant was swayed very little, with three confederates they conformed 31.8% of the time.
  • There are two types; Normative social influence (driven by the desire to fit in) and Informative social influence (driven by the desire to be right).
  • Smith and Mackie (1995) suggest reasons why the majority is so influential, there are deeper discussions, varied opinions and more confidence when you know that most people agree with you.
  • Kalven and Zeisel (1966) found that out of 215 juries with an initial majority, 97.2% then went on the reach a unanimous decision.
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Social Pressure

  • Minority social influence takes place when either an individual or small number of people influence a large number of people to change their minds.
  • Moscivici (1980) suggests that for a minority to influence a majority, Moscivici noted they must be consistant in their opinion and put across views with confidence.
  • Pasasamou (1980) points out that the minority are likely to change a majority view if they appear flexible and willing to compromise. Larger minorities are more effective than lone dissenters.
  • Tindale et al (1990) found in mock juries that increasing minority size has a greater effect, a larger minority means it can't be so easily ignored.
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