Jury Decision Making


Majority Influence (conformity)

  • Asch (1955) found that 75% of participants would follow the incorrect majority at least once when judging the lengths of lines.
  • Conformity was high when the majority was 3 or more.
  • Study suggests that members of a jury may be influenced by other members of the jury - low ecological validity as it isn't a study of real jurors & wouldn't usually have to make these sort of decisions.
  • Smith & Mackine (1995) - reasoned why we conform to majority influence: Varied opinions - the majority can express their opinions in a variety of ways. Their arguments are more numerous & are more compelling since they are supported by others.
  • Another reason why we conformto the majority influence is "deeper discussions" - ideas expressed by the majority will be discussed for longer than those who held by a single individual.
  • Another reason is "greater confidence" knowing others share their opinions gives members of the majority more confidence and more if they are forceful, increasing the likelihood of converting others.
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Minority Influence:

  • Sometimes a minority can influence the opinion of a group. E.G. Moscovic et al (1969) - firstly showed groups of 6 participants blue & green slides and watched how they judged them. 2/6 participants were confederates whose influence was assessed in two conditions: the consistent condition - confederates called the slides green on all trials and the inconsistent condition: confederates called the slides green on 2/3.
  • Found that 32% of the participants yielded at least once. The inconsistent confederates found that participants yielded only 1.25% of the time. These findings suggest that individuals in a jury are more likely to change the majority view if they are relevant and consistent (both between themselves & over time).
  • Study criticised - lacking ecological & mundane validity - because its not a study of real jurors, nor does it look at the sort of decision making that jurors face.
  • Influence of a minority can perhaps be explained by the attribution theory - that the group may perceive that the individual is voicing their dissent because they're motivated by a deep convinction that they're right.
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Characteristics of the defendant:

  • Stereotypes are simplistic generalisations about a group i.e. ethnicity, gender, age & attractiveness - generalisations may affect jury decision making.
  • Dixon et al (2002) - found that when participatns listened to a mock exchange between a policeman & suspect: rarely judged the suspect to be guilty, if their standard was "standard english" but were most likely to be judged guilty if the suspect had a birmingham accent - shows that even stereotypes are based on regional accents may affect jury decision making.
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Attributional Bias & Attractiveness:

Attributional Bias:

  • Johnson et al (2002): manipulated the ethnic group of the defendant in a mock trial. All white jurors made more situational attributions about the white defendant and suggested more lenient punishments than for black defendants. Therefore, attributional bias may explain the effect of ethnicity on jurors.

Physical Attractiveness:

  • Berscheif found that attractive indivuals seen to have more positive personality traits than less attractive people - 'Halo Effect' - is strongest for women accused of serious but non-fatal crimes.
  • However, if attractive individuals appear to be abusing their good looks, effect is lost.
  • Further support - Downs & Lyons - found a negative correlation between defendant attractivness, fines or bail payments when the seriousness of the crime was controlled.
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