Evaluation: Factors Influencing Jury Decision Making

Katie Greensted
Mind Map by Katie Greensted, updated more than 1 year ago
Katie Greensted
Created by Katie Greensted over 2 years ago
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A level Psychology (Criminal Psychology) Mind Map on Evaluation: Factors Influencing Jury Decision Making, created by Katie Greensted on 05/29/2019.

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Evaluation: Factors Influencing Jury Decision Making
  1. Characteristics of the defendant
    1. Attractiveness
      1. It is suggested that attractive defendants are treated more favourably by juries Than less attractive ones. Abwender and Hough aimed to investigate this idea, as well as to see whether this effect was dependent on the sex of the jurors.
        1. They found that female participants were more lenient towards an attractive female defendant, and less lenient towards an unattractive defendant. Male participants showed the opposite tendency.
          1. However, results of supporting studies are often contradictory and inconsistent. Patry found that mock jurors that discussed the case were more likely to find an attractive defendant guilty guilty whilst those that discussed less were more likely to find a plain defendant guilty. These results are opposite to Abwender and Hough's findings. Therefore, the effect of attractiveness on the decision-making process may vary depending on other factors, which makes firm conclusions difficult to gather.
      2. Race
        1. It is suggested that the ethnic group of the defendant matters in regard to jury decision making.
          1. Bradbury and Williams analysed data from real-life criminal cases in the USA and found that juries comprised of predominantly white jurors were more likely to convict a black defendant, followed by juries made up of mainly hispanic jurors. In both cases, this was more marked for certain crimes, such as drug offences.
            1. Pfeifer and Ogloff found in their study that participants overwhelmingly rated black defendants more guilty than white defendants, especially when the victim was white.
          2. Accent
            1. The accent of a defendant is also said to influence the decision a jury makes.
              1. Dixon et al found that ratings of guilt were significantly higher when participants heard a male suspect with a Birmingham accent than a suspect with a 'standard British' accent, suggesting that accent is another factor that influences the decision a jury makes.
            2. Pre-trial publicity
              1. Pre-trial publicity includes news coverage on TV and in other parts of the media of certain criminal cases. It is suggested that pre-trial publicity can influence peoples' opinions based on the often biased information presented in the media, which can influence the decision of the jury (who are supposed to decide whether a defendant is guilty or innocent based on the information presented in the courtroom alone.
                1. Steblay reviewed past research and found that those exposed to more negative pre-trial publicity were significantly more likely to be found guilty than those who did not. This supports the idea that pre-trial publicity, particularly negative publicity, can influence the decisions of a jury.
                  1. The OJ Simpson case was highly publicised, and this made it extremely difficult to find a jury that did not already hold any of their own views prior to the trial, which could have led to a biased conviction/release.
                2. A strength of the research into these factors is that most of it is ethical. The use of mock-juries in the majority of these studies allows the researchers to manipulate variables which would not be practical or ethical to do in a real case. Cases also use secondary data, and looks at cases which have already occurred so these also do not have ethical implications. This means that the factors can be tested without prejudicing the outcome of real trials.
                  1. However, as they are mock juries and trials, the results of these studies may lack ecological validity.
                  2. A weakness of research into this area is that there are many untested factors which could influence jury decision making. Other factors that could influence the results of the studies supporting these ideas include jurors having personal experiences of the crime, whether there are charismatic leaders on the jury who can sway opinions, or whether characteristics of the jurors match the characteristics of the defendant, perhaps creating more empathy. The failure to recognise these potential factors limits the usefulness of results coming from mock or real trials.
                    1. The research into factors that could influence jury decision making can be applied to real life court systems. For example, jurors should be reminded that they need to remain impartial as the research has shown that jurors are humans who are all subject to biases which could impact the neutrality of the verdict. This knowledge of jury biases could help reduce the miscarriage of justice in the future.
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