Reaching a verdict

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Stages in decision making

It is not possible to study what occurs when jury retire - this is bound by law. Therefore mock juries and research into group dynamics and social psychology is applied to explain the process that affect jurors reaching a verdict.

Hastie observed mock juries and concluded that there were 3 main stages:

  • Orientation period - Relaxed and open discussion, setting the agenda, questions raised + exploring facts, differing opinions.
  • Open confrontation - Fierce debate, focus on detail, exploring different interpretations, pressure on minority to conform and support for majority.
  • Reconciliation period - Attempts to smooth conflict and relieve tension through humour.

Hastie found that 9/10 times jury went with majority decision and decision making time increased with case complexity.                                                                                                                          It is thought that juries will go through the same group dynamics as any other when making important decisions. A unanimous verdict is often required so there will be greater pressure for a unanimous decision. Larger juries are more likely to take longer deciding and examining availiable evidence.

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Majority Influence - Asch

Asch investigated conformity rates:

  • The extent to which social pressure from a majority group could influence a person to conform.
  • A naive participant was asked a question to which several stooges had already answered wrongly - which line matched the stimulus line. It was an unambiguous task.
  • Asch found that p's conformed 1/3 (32%) of the time. When only one stooge gave wrong answer, it dropped to 5%. >3 stooges incorrect made little difference to conformity rate.

It was concluded that people conformed for two main reasons:

  • The need to belong to a group and avoid being ostracised and ridiculed - normative social influence.
  • The need to be right, in the presence of an ambiguous task where you are not sure - informative social influence.

When juries are reaching a verdict, even under careful and correct evaluation of evidence, the minority may feel under pressure to conform due to normative social influence - the need to be accepted, especially if the verdict is not clear cut. This is especially true for a unanimous verdict.

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Minority Influence - Clark

Moscovici found that minorities can influence majorities - more effective when they are consistent in their response.

Clark -

  • Examined minority influence in a jury setting where p's where given a transcript of the arguments from 12 Angry Men. In one condition, p's were just given Henry Fonda's arguments to read, in the other they were told how he gradually changed the minds of the other jurors.
  • It was found that the minority juror changed p's minds only if the minority was able to provide evidence and argument of their case in a consistent manner.
  • Social influence occured in both groups but was strongest when p's read the arguments and knew others conformed in the end. (minority to majority influence) 

Clark concluded that there were two possible factors that increased minority influence:

  • Consistent refutation of majority arguments and strong counters.
  • Deserting by majority member - eventual majority influence.
  • Power & social status and group identification are other factors that influence. 
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