Reaching a verdict

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  • Created by: Amy Leech
  • Created on: 03-04-13 20:44

Hastie; Stages in decision-making and influences

Background: In England the legal system engages 12 jurors who are directed to reach a unanimous verdict or, if that is not achievable, a majority decision by 10 of 12 jurors. As jury decision-making cannot be directly studied, the authors are applying the findings from social psychological research into groups and decision-making to the jury process.

Aim:To offer a model of the stages of jury decision -making:

Model: 1. Orientation period: which may start with agenda setting followed by open discussion, when questions are posed/discussed and facts of the case explored and where different opinions arise. 2. Open confrontation: likely to be characterised by debate and challenge, in-depth focus/exploration of details, consideration of alternative views/different interpretations, pressure on the minority to agree with majoroty becomes more overt, establishing support for the group (majority) decision. 3. Reconciliation: group consensus is reached following resolution of conflicts and easing of tensions.

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Hastie; Stages in decision-making and influences

Evaluation: Applying findings from research which has not specifically studied the jury deliberation process may not be reliable;  however, the fact that there are strong parallels with Tuckmans theory of group formation, which has been well received/used means some reliability mayb be inferred. Situational explanations/social determinism (e.g. being locked in a room; the need to reach a unanimous verdict). Reductionist -ignores individual /personality factors which are likely to impact on decision making. 

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Asch; The power of influence and conformity

Background/ Aim: To investigate the effect of majority influence on a minority (of one) using a simple perceptual discrimination task.

Sample: 123 male students, from  different institutions, USA.

Method: A lab experiment and also used interviews. A series of trials were run with groups of 7-9 students. Participants were seated at a table; they viewed two cards - on one was the 'standard' (a single vertical line); on the other were three vertical lines of varying length, with one the same length as 'standard'. In each group one was true/real participant, others were confederates. Prodecure engineered so that true/real participant always gave response last. Confederates were briefed to give the same incorrect answer on certain trials. There were 18 trials in each series and on 12 the majority/confederates responded incorrectly, although instructed to answer correctly on the first two trials. Participants were interviewed at the end to identify reasons for conformity. 

Variations on experiment: 1.Varying the number of participants seated around table, from one confederate and one real participant to 16 (i.e. 15 confederates). 2. Having a single dissenter who responded correctly before the real participant answered. 3. Having a single dissenter who responded incorrectly before real participant answered.

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Asch; The power of influence and conformity

Results:Conformity/agreement with majority (i.e. incorrect answer) was given in 36.8% of trials, although there was variation in conformity (i.e. individual differences): 25% of participants never agreed with majority while some individualss went with majority nearly all of the time. Interview data varied from participants believing they were wrong (or deficient) and the majority were correct, to some participants reporting they did not want to 'spoil results'. All yielding/conforming participants underestimated the frequency of their conformity. Variation results: when real participants was one of two, they invariably did not conform. Conformity rose to 13.6% of trials with two confederates and to 31.8% with three confederates. Beyond this number, the conformity rate remained steady, regardless of size. 'Dissenter' trials resulted in conformity reducing to 5%.

Evaluation: Lab experiments lack ecological validity and care should be taken when applying/generalising the findings. All-male sample is gender biased and findings cannot be generalised. Interviewing obtained important (valid) data about explanations of behaviour. Situational explanations of behaviour/ social determinism, however, 'resisting' conformity indicates free will. Usefulness- this has impliations for education/training.

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Nemeth and Wachtler; Minority influence and percei

Background: A classic experiment by Moscovici involving colour perception judgements concluded that consistency and lack of compromise are essential for minority influence to be exerted. 

Aim: To investigate the role of perceived autonomy on minority influence.

Sample: 116 male (paid $1.50) volunteers at Northwestern Uni, USA.

Method: Participants were given an injury/compensation case study to read. They then had to write down an amount of compensation they would award before being conducted, in groups of 5, to a discussion room. Participants either chose or were assigned a chair (either head of table or side seat). A control group was used. One confederate was used on all trials (trained for 25 hours in verbal/non verbal behaviour and 'blind' to experiemental hypothesis). He adopted a 'minority' position. Groups instructed to reach an unanimous decision in 40 minutes (for which an extra 50c would be paid). Afterwards, participants completed a questionnaire asking if opinion had changed about compensation amount and attitudes had changed, and about their perceptions of other group members.

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Nemeth and Wachtler; Minority influence and percei

Results: No groups reached consensus in 40 minutes. Initial compensation mean was $14.670. When confederate chose head seat, he exerted influence (i.e. compensation reduced to a mean of $10,375). Chosen head condition more effective (as meausred by lowered compensation 'awards') than the assigned head condition (5% significance level). From the questionnaire data the confederate perceived as more consistent, more independent, more a of a leader and more confidence (1% significance) than other participants. Also reported tha confederate made them think/assess their own positions more. Confederate perceived as more consistent and more of a leader when he occupied the head seat than when he occupied a side seat.

Evaluation: Controls (e.g. training confederate, 'blind' to hypothesis; control group) allows for greater confidence in results/data more reliable. Social determinism/ situational explanations of behaviour (choosing head seat). Research would seem to suggest it is essential to have a round table (no head of table) to rpevent undue influence.

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