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Social Psychology & Law. Social Psychology and the Law. Psychology in the Courtroom Pre-trial Courtroom Drama Jury Deliberation Post-conviction. Pre Trial: Jury Selection. In US, you have right to an “impartial” jury Is that right upheld? Jury selection is 3-step process

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social psychology and the law
Social Psychology and the Law
  • Psychology in the Courtroom
    • Pre-trial
    • Courtroom Drama
    • Jury Deliberation
    • Post-conviction
pre trial jury selection
Pre Trial: Jury Selection
  • In US, you have right to an “impartial” jury
  • Is that right upheld?
  • Jury selection is 3-step process

1.) Master list of eligible jurors

2.) Random sample taken from master list – these people are called for jury duty

3.) Voir dire – pretrial interview by judge and lawyers, to omit “biased” jurors

jury selection voir dire
Jury Selection: Voir dire
  • Voir dire: Does it work?
  • Peremptory challenges – lawyers can reject certain # of jurors who seem unbiased without reasons
  • Trial lawyers act as intuitive psychologists
  • For example, the stereotypes are that:
    • Athletes are unsympathetic to fragile or injured victims
    • Engineers are unemotional
    • Men with beards resist authority
jury selection voir dire5
Jury Selection: Voir dire
  • Are these stereotypes accurate? Not really:
  • For example, contrary to lawyer’s beliefs, people are harsher toward same-race defendants when evidence is strong (Kerr et al., 1995)
  • In general, lawyers are not good at predicting jury voting by intuition (Olczak et al., 1991) or question-asking (Kerr et al., 1991)
scientific jury selection
“Scientific” Jury Selection
  • Hiring professional jury consultants to identify ideal jurors
  • Use survey methods that yield correlations between demographics and trial-relevant attitudes
    • E.g, In OJ Simpson trial, black women were identified as most sympathetic to OJ
  • Lawyers than ask potential jurors targeted personal questions to identify the “right” jurors
jury selection death qualification
Jury Selection: Death Qualification
  • Used in
    • capital cases
    • Jury prescribes sentencing
  • Judge can exclude all potential jurors who say they are against the death penalty.
  • Does this tip the balance toward the death penalty?
  • Yes! Jurors who are not opposed to the death penalty:
    • More likely to vote guilty in murder trial (Cowan et al., 1986)
    • More concerned about crime, trustful of police, cynical toward defense lawyers, etc.
    • The death qualification process itself conveys that the defendant is guilty!
jury selection death qualification8
Jury Selection: Death Qualification
  • Lockhardt v McCree (1986) – Supreme Court case questioning whether death row inmates deserved new trial because of biases in death qualification
  • APA presented exhaustive review of evidence
  • Supreme Court dismissed the evidence, ruling that death qualification does not bias juries.
nonevidentiary influences pretrial publicity
Nonevidentiary Influences: Pretrial Publicity
  • Does exposure to pretrial news stories corrupt prospective jurors?
  • Why is pretrial publicity potentially dangerous?
contaminating effects of pretrial publicity
Contaminating Effects of Pretrial Publicity

From N.I. Kerr, G.P. Kramer, J.S. Carroll and J.J. Alfinin, (1982), "On the Effectiveness of Voir Dire in Criminal Cases with Prejudicial Pretrial Publicity: An Empirical Study," American University Law Review, 40, pp. 665-701. Reprinted with permission.

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
    • Judge’s instruction to disregard may arouse reactance.
    • Hard to ignore information that seems relevant to the case.
do innocent defendants ever confess
Do Innocent Defendants Ever Confess?
  • Central Park Jogger Rape

Matias Reyes

the risk of false confessions
The Risk of False Confessions
  • May confess merely to escape a bad situation.
  • Internalization can lead innocent suspects to believe they might be guilty of the crime.
  • Factors that increase the risk:
    • Vulnerability
      • Suspect who lacks clear memory of the event in question
    • False incriminating evidence
      • Presentation of false evidence
false confessions kassin kiechel
False Confessions(Kassin & Kiechel)
  • Ps worked on a computer task.
    • Told: “DO NOT hit alt key bc computer will crash!”
  • Vulnerability manipulation
    • Task (½ very slow-paced vs. ½ very fast-pace)
  • Incriminating evidence
    • Evidence offered by confederate (½ yes vs. ½ no)

Dependent variables:

  • % who signed a confession
  • % who admitted guilt privately
okay but how much is a confession worth kassin sukel
Okay, but How Much Is a Confession Worth?(Kassin & Sukel)

Mock jurors read a murder trial

  • 1/3 no confession in trial
  • 1/3 low-pressure confession in trial
  • 1/3 high-pressure confession in trial

Dependent variable:

  • % of participants convicting the defendant
why an attributional dilemma
Why? An Attributional Dilemma
  • Juries are powerfully influenced by evidence of a confession, even if the confession was coerced.
    • FAE revisited.
  • A jury’s reaction can be influenced by how confession evidence is presented.

Perceptual Salience

Actor A

Actor B

Whichever actor they faced was the one the observers judged to be the more dominant member of the dyad

confessions perceptual salience lassister colleagues
Confessions & Perceptual Salience(Lassister & colleagues)
  • Taped mock confessions from 3 different angles
    • 1/3 only suspect was visible
    • 1/3 only interrogator was visible
    • 1/3 both were visible
  • Ps who only saw suspects saw the situation as less coercive than did others


Three chances to for errors

Stage 1

Stage 2

Stage 3


Info the person



Info the person

stores in memory




Info the person

retrieves at a later time

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
eyewitnesses acquisition
Eyewitnesses: Acquisition
  • Accuracy of Eyewitness Identification
    • Phase 1
      • Staged a theft; Ps (“eyewitnesses”) pick out “thief” from photos
        • Poor viewing condition – “thief” wore cap; present for 12 seconds
        • Moderate viewing condition -- “thief” revealed more of his face; present for 12 seconds
        • Good viewing condition -- “thief” did not wear cap; present for 20 seconds
    • Phase 2
      • Eyewitnesses were questioned & session videotaped
      • New Ps (“jurors”) watched videotaped session
      • Jurors rated extent to which they believed

the witness correctly identified the thief


Accuracy of Eyewitness Identification


Viewing Conditions

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 storage stage loftus palmer
Eyewitness: Storage Stage(Loftus & Palmer)

About how fast were

the cars going when

they ____ each other?

40.8 mph



34.0 mph


30.8 mph

eyewitness storage stage loftus palmer31
Eyewitness: Storage Stage(Loftus & Palmer)

About how fast were

the cars going when

they ____ each other?

40.8 mph



34.0 mph


30.8 mph

32% Misremembered Broken Glass in “Smashed” Condition

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
eyewitness retrieval stage lineups malpass devine
Eyewitness: Retrieval StageLineups (Malpass & Devine)
  • Ps saw a staged act of vandalism, after which they attended a lineup
    • Instructions received:
      • ½ biased (led to believe culprit was present)
      • ½ unbiased (may or may not be present)
    • Culprit (½ was present vs. ½ was absent)
  • Dependent variable:
    • % of false identifications
child eyewitnesses leichtman ceci
Child Eyewitnesses(Leichtman & Ceci)
  • Pre-school kids told story about clumsy man, Sam Stone, who broke things
  • Month later, man visited class for a day
  • Next day, teacher points out ripped book and soiled teddy bear
  • Conditions:
    • Control or
    • Asked suggestive questions
  • DVs and results:
    • 72% falsely identified perpetrator
    • 45% said they saw him do it
  • Real world: Wee Care Nursery School in NJ (1988)
how lineups should be conducted
How lineups should be conducted
  • 4-8 innocent “foils”
  • Nothing should make accused person stand out or look different – it greatly increases chance s/he will be selected
  • One at a time (“show-up”)
jury deliberation leadership in the jury room
Jury Deliberation: 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.
jury deliberation a leniency bias in the jury
Jury Deliberation:A Leniency Bias in the Jury

Final Jury Verdicts (%)

Initial Votes Conviction Acquittal Hung

6-0 (guilty-not) 100 0 0

5-1 78 7 16

4-2 44 26 30

3-3 9 51 40

2-4 4 79 17

1-5 0 93 7

0-6 0 100 0

  • We can understand a lot about what goes on in the courtroom by studying the psychology of the major courtroom actors.
  • The evidence from psychological research can be (and sometimes is) used to critique & improve aspects of the legal system.