Reaching a Verdict


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  • Created on: 22-05-16 19:57

Effects of Order - Pennington and Hastie

Aim: To understand if story order is superior in gaining a conviction and the extent to which story order effects confidence in those decisions.

Method: Lab experiment set up as a mock trial.

Participants: 130 American students who were paid to participate. They were allocated to one of 4 conditions so that primacy and recency effects were controlled for.

Procedure:Jurors listened to a tape recording of a stimulus trial which was based on a real case. They responded to written questions and had to reach a verdict. They also had to rate their confidence on their decision. Information was either presented in story order, or witness order and they were separated by partitions and did not interact with each other

Results: Story order was significantly more effective in influencing the verdict than witness order and more jurors expressed higher confidence levels with the defence and prosecution in story order.

Conclusion: The order in which evidence is presented has an effect on juror’s decision making abilities and story order has more of a persuasive effect as it may make the evidence easier for the jurors to process. They argue that the reason so many court cases in the US result in a guilty verdict is because the prosecution use story order and the defence usually use witness order – so the order in which two juries are presented with the information will affect the verdicts they reach.

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Effects of Order - Background

A variety of factors, such as schemas, influence jury’s decision when reaching a verdict. One important factor to consider is the way information and evidence is presented during the trial. There are two ways in which evidence can be presented in court:

Story order - Where evidence and witnesses are called in chronological order as the events unfold in the crime.

Witness order - The best witness is presented first or last to take advantage of primacy/recency effects.

The primacy and recency effect states that what you hear/see first and last will be recalled more accurately than something heard/seen in between. This is because we experience a dip in concentration in the middle of an extended period of time. This may apply to juror’s as they sit through days or weeks of testimony, and are faced with a lot of evidence which are disconnected.

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Inadmissible Evidence - Pickel

Aim: To investigate the role of the judge's instructions when followed by legal explanation.

Method: Lab experiment set up as a mock trial.

Participants: 236 American students who participated as part of a course requirement. They were assigned randomly to one of two conditions.

Procedure: Both groups listened to an audio tape mock trial where critical evidence, stating that the defendant had previous convictions for theft, was introduced 'accidentally' by a witness. This was objected to and the judge ruled it as inadmissible and that the jury should ignore it. One group was given a legal explanation of why the evidence was inadmissible and the other was just told to disregard the information with no explanation. Participants were then told to decide on a verdict.


  • Mock jurors who received no legal explanation were able to ignore it and found the defendant guilty
  • Those who were given a legal explanation were less likely to find the defendant guilty and not able to ignore it.

Conclusion: Calling attention to inadmissible evidence makes it more important to the jury as they pay more attention it. By giving a legal explanation, it seems that the jurors tended to over-compensate and therefore a not give guilty verdict.

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Inadmissible Evidence - Background

The law states that in order for evidence to be admissible in court, its relevance must outweigh its potential for prejudice. Inadmissible evidence includes hearsay and prior conviction evidence (this could bias the jurors against the defendant) or evidence obtained by illegal means. If inadmissible evidence is presented in error by a witness, the judge will direct the jury to disregard it. However, by drawing their attention to it, it may be that the jury in fact pays even more attention to it. This is known as the reactance theory which suggests that jurors perceive their instructions as undermining their freedom to take all the evidence into account.

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Expert Witness - Cutler

Aim: To investigate whether the presence of an expert witness would affect the juror's decision making ability.

Method:  Lab experiment using a videotaped mock trial.

Participants: 538 American psychology students who were given extra credits.

Procedure: Participants were shown a videotape of a robbery in groups. Afterwards, they independently completed a questionnaire containing the dependent measures, which were the verdict, a memory test and rating scales for how confident they were in their verdict. There were four independent variables:

  • Witness Identifying Conditions (WIC): Good (no disguise, no gun, a 2-day delay in identification and no suggestive instructions during the line-up) or Bad (robber disguised, handgun, 14-day delay and suggestive instructions during line-up)
  • Witness confidence: In the good condition, witness claimed to be 100% confident whereas in the poor condition, the witness was only 80% confident that they identified the criminal correctly.
  • Expert Opinion Expressed: The expert expressed an opinion on a scale of 0-25 on the accuracy of the testimony.
  • Form of Expert Testimony: Expert witness either gave a descriptive testimony about EWT or relied on % and figures.

Results: Jurors gave more guilty verdicts when WIC's were good which increased if the psychologist used ordinary language. 85% of jurors remembered what the expert psychologist said. Jurors also expressed more confidence when the witness was 100% sure.

Conclusion: Expert testimony improved juror’s knowledge of factors that might affect the accuracy of eyewitness testimony and made them pay more attention to WIC. With expert testimony, juror sensitivity to problems with evidence is improved and may help prevent miscarriages of justice.

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Expert Witness - Background

Jurors tend to think that witnesses are accurate and trustworthy. However, they lack knowledge of factors that might affect witnesses’ memory of the events, such as:

  • Weapon focus effect – the concentration of witness's attention is on the weapon, therefore making it difficult for them to identify the perpetrator.
  • Leading questions - memory is reconstructive and altered by the wording of questions.
  • Delay of the testimony - The longer the delay, the less reliable the memory.

This may have serious consequences for the accused, so sometimes, the defence calls in expert psychologists to explain to the jury why the witness testimony may not be accurate or reliable. This adds scientific credence to the evidence and helps clarify complex issues to the jury so they can be more confident about making a verdict based on the evidence provided.

Another study: 

Another study on this topic is the study by Loftus who aimed to assess the influence an expert witness can have on juror’s acceptance of eye witness evidence. The participants were students who acted as jurors. In half of the cases the testimony included a statement from a Psychology expert who provided evidence about the unreliability of the EWT. The statement also indicated that there was a weapon effect and that the witness had been drinking. In the other half, the P’s were provided with no evidence about the problems associated with reliance on EWT evidence. Results showed that those who received the expert testimony spent longer discussing the eye witness evidence and were less likely to find the defendant guilty. Therefore, expert witness influences juror’s decision.

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Attractiveness of Defendant - Castellow

Aim: To test the hypothesis that an attractive defendant is less likely to be seen as guilty and the more attractive the victim the more likely the guilty verdict.

Method: Lab experiment set up as a mock trial

Participants: 71 male and 74 female American Psychology students who particiapted for extra credits.

ProcedureParticipants asked to read a sexual harassment case, attached were photos of victims and defendants. The photos were previously rated for attractiveness by an independent panel on a scale of 1-9, 1 being attractive.The participants were asked if the defendent was guilty and asked to rate the defendant and victim on a several bipolar scales such as dull-exciting, cold-warm, etc.


  • Physically attractive defendants and victims were rated positively for other personality variables
  • Unattractive defendants were found guilty 76% of the time compared to 56% for attractive defendants
  • A guilty verdict was more likely when the victim was attractive and the defendant was unattractive

Conclusions: they concluded that appearance does have a powerful effect on jury decision. this why lawyers advise their clients to dress smart for their day in court.

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Attractiveness of Defendent - Background

Previous Research have shown that attractiveness does matter. According to Dion et al, physically attractive people are assumed to have other attractive properties. This is known as the Halo Effect, which is a cognitive bias where how we perceive one trait is influenced by previous traits. This is part of the Implicit Personality Theory which is making a general assumption about someone's personality based on the first trait. This is why the defendant is adviced to turn up well dressed for their court appearance. 

Efran found that good looking criminals received lighter sentences or penalties unless their looks were involved in the crime, e.g. gold diggers and fraud.

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Witness Confidence - Penrod and Cutler

This Study is the same as the Study by Cutler on Expert Witness, just focused on confidence.

Aim: To examine several factors, including confidence, jurors might consider when evaluating Eye wtiness evidence.

Method: Lab experiment using a videotaped mock trial.

Procedure: Participants were shown a videotape of a robbery. there were 10 IVs, one of which was witness confidence. Eyewitness identification was key to the trial; the witness testified she was either 100% or 80% confident that she correctly identified the robber.

Results: The more confident the witness was, the more likely the jury were to believe them and reach a guilty verdict. There was 67% guilty verdict when the witness was 100% confident compared to 60% when the witness was 80% confident. 

Conclusions: Witness confidence plays a role in jurors believing the witness.

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Witness Confidence - Background

Giving evidence in Court is a nerve-wracking experience, and sometimes wtinesses appear nerve and hestiate when answering questions for this reason. however, jurors may perceive this nervousness as being unsure or lying. Because of this, jurors may not believe what the witness is saying. Research have shown that when a witness appears confident, jurors tend to have more confidence in what they hear and therefore in their verdict. 

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Shields and videotape - Ross

Aim: to find out if the use of protective shields and videotaped testimony increases the likeliness of a guilty verdict.

Method: mock trial based on a court transcript

Participants: 300 American Psychology students. 

Procedure: the participants watched a 2 hour film of an alleged case where a father was accused of abusing his child. There were 3 conditions; the testimony was given with the child behind a screen, via video or in open court. A warning was given, directing the jury not to infer guilt by the use of different testimonies. The participants were then asked to reach a verdict and rate the credibility of the child and defendant. 

Results: there was no significant difference in guilty verdicts across the three groups, however, there was a significantly higher tendency for females to find the defendant guilty. Also females rated the defendants as being less credible.

Conclusion: they concluded that when judges warning is given, there is no disadvantage to the defendant in the use of shields and videotape. 

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Shields and videotape - Background

In many cases involving sexual abuse, kidnapping or domesic violence a child is the only witness. There are a number of difficulties with having a child appear in court as witnesses, such as:

  • Distress: Appearing in court is traumatic for children as they have to confront their abusers
  • Suggestibility: children can make things up or have ideas put into their heads so their testimony may not be accurate.
  • Legal Requirement.

One solution to the problem of psychological distress and harm is to let The child be interviewed in another room. In the US, its more common to set up a screen for the child to sit behind. The screen is set up so that the child cannot see defendant but the defendant can see them. 

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Stages in Decision making - Hastie

Hastie set up a mock trial about a fictional case. The mock jurors were divided into 3 conditions: the groups had to either reach a unanimous decision (12-0), a majority verdict (10-2), or a divided verdict (8-4). All the groups were videotaped and the researchers looked for similarities in how the discussions developed. Hastie concluded that there are 3 stages in decision making:

  • Orientation - the jurors are relaxed and there is an open discussion about the evidence, where everyone feels free to have their say. People raise questions  and explore the facts and lots of different opinions start to arise
  • Open confrontation - the debate turns fierce and jurors start arguing about small details, trying to convice ne another to take their view. They put themselves in the shoes of the victim/suspect in order to try and understand their reasons, thus exploring different interpretations. There is intense pressure on the minority to conform to the emerging group decision.
  • Reconciliation - Once the group decision is established, the pressure drops. People who were in conflict try to smooth things over and humour is used to release the tension
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Stages in Decision making - Background

The aim of jurors is to reach a unanimous verdict. If after a long deliberation and a unanimous verdict appears to be unlikely, the judge may instruct the jury to reach a majority verdict (10-2). 

Kalven and Zeisel found that, of 215 juries that had a majority opinion at the start of their discussions, only 6 changed their mind to adopt a minority's opinion by the end. This research supports Hasties model which states that a majority opnion forms pretty quickly in a jury and this tends to determine the final verdict. However, other researchers have found evidence of a leniency bias - the longer the discussion goes on, the more likely the jury comes up with a ''not guilty'' verdict. Becuase of this, the English law gives the judge power to change the rules if the jury cannot come to a unanimous decision, allowing them to come to a majority verdict (10-2) instead. 

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Majority Influence - Asch

Aim: investigate effects of conformity to the majority when the task is unambiguous

Method and participants: lab experiment, with 123 American male students

Procedure: the participants were shown a series of lines (standard lines and possible answers). Out of a group of 7-9, only 1 student was the real subject, the rest were confederates. The confederates were told to give the same incorrect answer on 12 critical trials. Everyone had to say their answers aloud and the real subject was always last. Asch measured the number of times each participant conformed to the majority view

Results: 32% of the participants conformed to the majority. 25% didnt conform at all. when 1 confederate in the group gave the right answer, conformity fell to 5%.

Conclusion: people conform for 2 reasons: to fit in with the group (normative) and becuase they believe the group is better informed (informative) 

Application: This can be applied to jurors - some members of the jury may sway towards the opinions of the majoirty in order to avoid alienation from the social majority; they would rather conform than be the odd one out. 

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Majority Influence - Background

Conformity is when an individual gives up their personal views under group pressure, thus yielding to group pressure, this can be for two reasons:

  • Informational social influence - they don't know the answer so look to the group for guidance
  • Normative social influence - individual outwardly conforms to avoid rejection from the group but inwardly disagrees.

Research with 225 juries showed that the guilty view at the beginning led to guilty verdict 86% of the time, showing that majority has a powerful influence. 

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Minority Influence - Clark

Aim: to examine minority influence in a jury setting

Procedure: Participants, who were students, were asked to read a transcript of the arguments presented in the film 'Twelve Angry Men'. In the film, all but one member of the jury initially believed that a defendant was guilty. Slowly, the one jury (played by Henry) , changes the minds of the others becuase of his consistent and unwavering conviction about the man's innocence. In the experiemnt, some participants were only given Henry's arguments to read whereas the others were told how he gradually changed the minds of the other jury members as well as being given his arhument to read. 

Findings: social influence occured in both groups, but was strongest where the participants read the participants read the arguements and knew about the thers eventually conformed

Conclusions: clark concluded that  two possible factors increased minority influnece:

  • the minority refuted the majoirty arguments and provided strong counter arguments, thus showing the majority view to be incorrect
  • desertion by the major9ity members (4-7) to the minority position



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Minority Influence - Background

Minority influence is a form of social influence where people reject the norm of the majority.  It is a result of informational social influence - providing the majority with new ideas, new information which leads them to re-examine their views. Minority influence involves private acceptance (internalisation) then converting the majority by convincing them that the minority's views are right. This is known as conversion. The 4 major factors that give minority its power is consistency, confidence, unbiased and resistance.

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