Sample Notes from our Criminal Psychology Course
characteristics of the juror can be significantly relevant to their
decision making. A three-factor juror personality construct has
revealed influential factors including:
• Juror authoritarianism
• Belief in internal or external locus of control
• Belief in a just world.
and Vidman looked at the degree of the juror’s authoritarianism on the
severity of verdicts. They found that high authoritarians were
significantly more severe in their judgements than low authoritarians,
especially when it came to low status defendants. When they tested
high authoritarian subjects, they found that these people tended to
recall mainly information that was legally insignificant, but which was
more concerned with the defendant’s characteristics.
Juror Locus of Control
Locus of control is where a person believes that their behaviour is
guided by fate, luck or other external circumstances, whilst the
internal locus of control is where a person believes that their
behaviour is controlled by their own efforts or decisions.
An example: Bill failed his statistics exam.
• It was bad luck - I didn’t have time to revise and the woman next to me kept rustling her papers (external locus of control).
• I didn’t have time to revise, because I didn’t organise myself well enough (internal locus of control).
and Wilson investigated jurors’ beliefs about internal and external
locus of control. They found that mock jurors with a high measure of
internal control attributed more responsibility to defendants than
jurors who scored high on measures of external control.
argued that this is because of projection. Jurors project their own
perceptions of responsibility on to their judgements of others.
Belief in a Just World
concerns the idea that people believe we live in a world where people
deserve what they get, and get what they deserve. Lerner argued that
under some circumstances innocent victims are blamed for their
misfortunes, so that the observer can maintain their own ‘just world’
beliefs. Auckerman and Gerbasi found that subjects who ranked high on a
just world scale tended to hold ‘more respectable’ victims as being
less responsible for the crimes committed AGAINST them, than they did
for ‘less respectable’ victims. For example, if a middle class,
obviously well-off man and a prostitute were both victims of the same
crime, people who had a high ranking in just world would tend to see the
prostitute as more deserving of being a victim of the crime than the
middle class person. Therefore, they are basically blaming the prostitute for being a victim.
conclusion, the data shows that authoritarianism level, belief in
internal or external locus of control, and belief in a just world can
each influence jurors’ decision making processes. This may be to the
extent that they ignore relevant information and focus on irrelevant
has also shown that juror characteristics go beyond their own
personality constructs to their previous experience in convictions.
Skolnick found that jurors with prior experience tend to show an
increased disposition towards conviction. Skolnick argued that this is
because jurors tended to believe that authorities only caught people who
were guilty, thereby creating a ‘guilt bias’. Nagao and David looked
at criminal cases. They used two mock cases.
first was a rape case, severe crime, and the second was a vandalism
case, non-severe crime. They allocated subjects to one of two mock
juries. Group 1 of the mock jurors deliberated on the rape case first
followed by the vandalism case. Group 2 deliberated on the vandalism
first then the rape case. They found that the juries showed
significantly different patterns of conviction. Group 1 convicted the
vandalism defendants at a significantly higher rate than the second
jury. Group 2 convicted the rape defendants at a significantly lower
rate than the first jury.
suggests that there is also an ‘innocent bias’. They argued that the
second jurors felt the burden of guilt less after they looked at the
vandalism case first. Vandals were found not guilty more often than
defendants in the rape case. So those who looked at the vandalism case
first may have come to believe that people do sometimes get convicted of
crimes that they have not committed, they therefore may have been more
anxious about convicting an innocent person. With the guilt bias, the
severity of the rape case may have led to the jurors being harsher on
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