Reaching a Verdict

A brief introduction to the topic and summaries of the studies/theories

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Persuading a Jury: Testimony (order)

Story order: Presenting information and witnesses in chronological order.

Witness order: Presenting information and witnesses in order of importance 

Regency effect: Jurors are more inclined to remember what they hear first (prosecution)

Primary effect: Jurors are more inclined to remember what they hear last (defence)

Study: Pennington and Hastie  Aim: To test the hypothesis that jurors are more easily persuaded by story order than witness order.

Method: Participants were asked to be a mock jury in a mock murder trial. This was an indepent measure design as the lawyer presented in either witness OR story order.

Results: Story order (defence) Witness order (prosecution) LOWEST GV - 31%

Witness order (defence) Story order (prosecution) HIGHEST GV - 78%

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Persuading a Jury: Persuasion

The Yale Model - Hovland and Janis

  • The source needs to be credible, knowledgable and attractive: a barrister may spend some time trying to undermine the credibility of an eye witness - jury will be less likely to believe them.
  • The message should have some emotional appeal although too much is off-putting. The barrister should judge the jury and decide which approach will be most effective.
  • A message is more persuasive if presented in an informal setting, E.G joking and making eye contact with members of the jury.
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Persuading a Jury: Inadmissible evidence

Inadmissable evidence: Evidence that is deemed by the judge to create more bias or prejduice than is relevant to the case. I.E Phone tapping, previous convictions.

Reactance theory: We react to those who restrict our freedom or choice by strengthing our opinion or behaving in a way that was not intended (used in reverse psychology)

Study: Broeder - Aim: To examine the effect of information being ruled inadmissable by judge.

Participants: Members of a real jury who agreed to participate in research (mock jury)

Procedure: Listened to tapes of evidence from previous trials and deliberate, in this case a woman who was injured by a male driver.


  • When the driver said he had liability insurance the victim was awarded $4000 more than when he had no insurance - larger pay outs when insurance company is paying
  • If the judge ruled the insurance evidence as inadmissable the victim was awarded $13000 more
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Witness Appeal: Attractiveness

Intro: Physical appearance is deemed to be a good way to tell if someone is in good health or not, and whether they are a good person.

Study: Castellow et al

Aim: To test the hypothesis that juries make judgements about the personality and character of the defendant based on their appearance.

Method: Participants asked to read the trial summary of a case in which a 23yr old secretary accused her male employer of sexual harrasment (made sexual remarks, attempted to kiss her and fondle her) they were then shown photos of the defendent and plaintiff. They were then asked to agree on a verdict.


  • Attractive plaintiff and unattractive defendant HIGHEST GV 83%
  • Unattractive plaintiff and attractive defendant LOWEST GV 41%
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Witness Appeal: Confidence

Intro: During a case when the witnesses are giving evidence, one factor is how confident they seem when giving their evidence.

Study: Penrod and Cutler

Aim: To examine several factors, including confidence that jurors might consider when evalutating eyewitness identification evidence

Participants: Undergraduates, eligible and also experienced jurors.

Procedure: A videota[ed trial of a robbery was presented in which eyewitness identification played a key role. The witness testified that she was either 80% or 100% confident. Participants were either in the 100% OR 80% condition (indepentant measures) They were then asked to agree on a verdict.


  • When the witness was 100% confident the GV was 67%
  • When the witness was 80% confident the GV was 60%
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Witness Appeal: Shields & videotape

Intro: Children can, on occasion be the only witness to a crime - providing evidence can be extremely traumatic.

Study: Ross et al - Aim: To examine the effects on conviction rates if children give evidence in sexual abuses cases in court, with a protective shield or via videotape.

Participants: 300 students (150 male, 150 female) Majority white and middle class

Procedure: Shown a mock trial in which the father was accused of touching his 10yr old daughter in the bath (a single touch) it lasted 2 hours and was based on real court transcripts - it was filmed in court with real legal professionals. Condition 1 = Child in court Condition 2 = Protective Shield Condition 3 = via video link

Results: Type of testimony had no effect on CR, females tend to give more GV than men.

Procedure 2: Video stopped immediatly after child gave evidence - no other witnesses

Results: Open court condition caused more convictions

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Reaching a Verdict: Decision making

Stages of decision:

  • The Orientation period: Discuss the case, set the agenda, consider the different views of the group and ask questions about the case.
  • Open confrontation: Debate the views of the group, there is often pressure felt to confrom to the groups decison.
  • Reconciliation: Jury attempt to release tension through humour and smooth conflict to try and reach a verdict.

Study: James Stoner

  • Stoner made use of 12 short case studies based around real life decisions such as taking a new, better paid job, but may not be stable or staying with your current job (Mr D). He then asked participants to tick which probability is the lowest they would consider it was acceptable to take the new job (1/10 - 10/10). James stoner found that people in groups are more likely to make a risky decision than if they were on their own.
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Reaching a Verdict: Majority influence

Normative influence - Conforming to the group due to a desire to be liked and accepted by the group

Informational influence - Conforming to the group due to a desire to be correct

Study - Asch

Sample: 123 male, american, undergraduates. The confederates were to give the same incorrect answer 12/18 times

Procedure: Taking part in a 'vision test'. Standard line, 3 comparison lines - match the lines.

Findings: 36.8% of the responses made by participants were incorrect (conformed) 1/4 of particpants never conformed.

Why do people conform?

  • Distortion of perception - They saw the lines in the same way as the majority
  • Distortion of judgement - They doubted their own accuracy
  • Distortion of action - Complied in order to not stand out by giving a different answer
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Reaching a Verdict: Minority influence

Intro: The minority must be consistent, flexible and relevant to influence the majority

Study - Moscovici

Aim: To see whether a consistent minority of participants could influence a majority to give an incorrect answer in a colour perception task.

Sample: 172 participants

Procedure: 6 participants at a time were asked to estimate the colour of 36 slides (all were blue) two participants were confederates. Two conditions: Consistent - all green Inconsistent: green 25, blue 12

Findings: Participants in the consistent condition confromed 8.4%, inconsitent condition confromed 1.3%


  • It is important that the minority behave consistently, with a consistent viewpoint agreed upon with all members of the minority group
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