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Chapter 12. Law. The Social Psychology of Evidence. Overview of the American Criminal Justice System. Eyewitness Testimony. How accurate are eyewitness accounts? Three conclusions about eyewitness testimony: Eyewitnesses are imperfect.

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Eyewitness testimony
Eyewitness Testimony

  • How accurate are eyewitness accounts?

  • Three conclusions about eyewitness testimony:

    • Eyewitnesses are imperfect.

    • Certain personal and situational factors systematically influence eyewitness’ performance.

    • Judges, juries, and lawyers are not well informed about these factors.

Eyewitness testimony acquisition
Eyewitness Testimony: Acquisition

  • Refers to the witness’s perceptions at the time of the event in question.

  • Factors influencing acquisition:

    • One’s emotional state

    • Weapon-focus effect

    • Cross-race identification bias

Eyewitness testimony storage
Eyewitness Testimony: Storage

  • Refers to getting the information into memory to avoid forgetting.

  • Memory for faces and events tends to decline over time.

  • But, not all memories fade over time.

    • However, the “purity” of the memory can be influenced by postevent information.

Eyewitness testimony storage cont
Eyewitness Testimony: Storage (cont.)

  • Misinformation Effect: The tendency for false postevent information to become integrated into people’s memory of an event.

  • If adults can be misled by postevent information, what about children?

    • Repetition, misinformation, and leading questions can bias a child’s report, particularly for preschoolers.

Eyewitness testimony retrieval
Eyewitness Testimony: Retrieval

  • Refers to pulling the information out of storage when needed.

  • Factors affecting identification performance:

    • Lineup construction

    • Lineup instructions to the witness

    • Format of the lineup

    • Familiarity-induced biases

Courtroom testimony of eyewitnesses
Courtroom Testimony of Eyewitnesses

  • Eyewitness testimony in court is persuasive and not easy to evaluate.

  • Why do jurors often overestimate the accuracy of eyewitnesses?

    • Lack knowledge about human memory.

    • Base judgments largely on witness’s confidence.

Improving eyewitness justice
Improving Eyewitness Justice

  • Educate judges and juries about the science so they can better evaluate eyewitnesses who testify in court.

  • Make eyewitness identification evidence itself more accurate.

The psychology of lie detection
The Psychology of Lie-Detection

  • Polygraph: A mechanical instrument that records physiological arousal from multiple channels.

  • Do the lie-detector tests really work?

    • Truthful people often fail the test.

    • The test can be faked by artificially inflating arousal responses to “innocent” questions.

Approaches to police interrogations
Approaches to Police Interrogations

  • Pressure the suspect into submission by expressing certainty of his or her guilt.

  • Befriend the suspect.

False confessions
False Confessions

  • May confess merely to escape a bad situation.

  • Internalization can lead innocent suspects to believe they might be guilty of the crime.

  • Two factors can increase the risk of false confessions:

    • Lack of a clear memory of the event in question

    • Presentation of false evidence

Confessions and the jury an attributional dilemma
Confessions and the Jury:An Attributional Dilemma

  • Juries are powerfully influenced by evidence of a confession, even if the confession was coerced.

    • Fundamental attribution error revisited.

  • A jury’s reaction can be influenced by how confession evidence is presented.

Jury selection
Jury Selection

  • Voir dire is the pretrial examination of prospective jurors by the judge or opposing lawyers to uncover signs of bias.

  • A peremptory challenge is a means by which lawyers can exclude a limited number of prospective jurors without the judge’s approval.

Trial lawyers as intuitive psychologists
Trial Lawyers as Intuitive Psychologists

  • As far as trial practice is concerned, how-to books claim that the astute lawyer can predict a juror’s verdict by his or her gender, race, age, ethnic background, and other simple demographics.

Scientific jury selection
Scientific Jury Selection

  • A method of selecting juries through surveys that yield correlations between demographics and trial-relevant attitudes.

  • Does scientific jury selection work?

  • Is scientific jury selection ethical?

Juries in black and white does race matter
Juries in Black and White: Does Race Matter?

  • To what extent does a juror’s race color his or her decision making? Research suggests that there is no simple answer to this question.

Death qualification
Death Qualification

  • A jury selection procedure used in capital cases that permits judges to exclude prospective jurors who say they would not vote for the death penalty.

  • Are death-qualified juries prone to convict?

Nonevidentiary influences pretrial publicity
Nonevidentiary Influences: Pretrial Publicity

  • Does exposure to pretrial news stories corrupt prospective jurors?

  • Why is pretrial publicity potentially dangerous?

    • Often divulges information that is not later allowed into the trial record

    • Issue of timing

Nonevidentiary influences inadmissible testimony
Nonevidentiary Influences: Inadmissible Testimony

  • Why do people not always follow a judge’s order to disregard inadmissible evidence?

    • Added instruction draws attention to the information in controversy.

    • Judge’s instruction to disregard may arouse reactance.

    • Jurors want to reach the right decision, so it is hard to ignore information that seems relevant to the case.

Nonevidentiary influences the judge s instructions
Nonevidentiary Influences: The Judge’s Instructions

  • To make verdicts adhere to the law, juries are supposed to comply with the judge’s instructions.

  • Do jurors understand their instructions?

  • What about the timing of the instructions?

  • What if the jury disagrees with the law?

    • Jury nullification

Leadership in the jury room
Leadership in the Jury Room

  • A person is more likely to be chosen as foreperson if the person:

    • Is of higher occupational status or has prior jury experience

    • Is a male

    • Is the first person who speaks

    • Is sitting at the head of a rectangular table

  • Forepersons act more as the jury’s moderator rather than its leader.

The dynamics of deliberation
The Dynamics of Deliberation

  • In criminal trials, deliberation tends to produce a leniency bias favoring the defendant.

    • leniency bias is the tendency for jury deliberation to produce a tilt toward acquittal.

  • How do juries resolve disagreements?

    • A combination of informational and normative influence

Jury size
Jury Size Verdict

  • How does jury size affect the decision-making process?

    • Possible lack of allies in smaller juries may make it harder to resist normative pressures.

    • Smaller juries are less likely to represent minority segments of the population.

    • Smaller juries are more likely to reach unanimous decisions after shorter deliberation periods.

Less than unanimous verdicts
Less-Than-Unanimous Verdicts Verdict

  • Weakens jurors who are in the voting minority.

  • Breeds closed-mindedness.

  • Short-circuits the discussion.

  • Leaves many jurors uncertain about the decision.


Posttrial Verdict

To Prison and Beyond

The sentencing process
The Sentencing Process Verdict

  • People disagree on the goals served by imprisonment.

    • Incapacitate offenders and deter them from committing future crimes?

    • Exact retribution for misdeeds?

  • Common public complaint is sentencing disparity.

    • Sentencing disparity is the inconsistency of sentences for the same offense from one judge to another.

The prison experience
The Prison Experience Verdict

  • Does the prison situation lead guards and prisoners to behave as they do?

  • Zimbardo et al.’s (1973) Stanford Prison Study.

  • How does this study inform the power of the situation?

Justice as a matter of procedure
Justice as a Matter of Procedure Verdict

  • Satisfaction with dispute resolution depends on both the outcome and the procedure used to achieve those outcomes.

  • Important aspects of procedure:

    • Decision control

    • Process control

Which legal system do people prefer
Which Legal System Do People Prefer? Verdict

  • Adversarial Model: The prosecution and defense present opposing sides of the story.

  • Inquisitorial Model: A neutral investigator gathers evidence from both sides and presents the findings in court.

  • Adversarial proceedings seen as more fair and just because the method offers participants a voice in the proceedings.

Culture law and justice
Culture, Law, and Justice Verdict

  • Much of research from this chapter can be universally applied

    • Yet there are important cross-cultural differences

  • Different nations have different laws

  • Different cultures have different customs

  • Likewise, punishments for crimes also vary

Closing statement1
Closing Statement Verdict

  • Through an understanding of social psychology we can now identify the problems in the legal system and even find some solutions.