Reaching A Verdict - G543


Effect's Of order of Testimony

  • In order to make sense of the world people often fit the events around them into a story.  
  • Jurors do the same and will return the verdict that has the best fit with their story.
  • The jurors use their trial knowledge, knowledge of similar events and knowledge of story structures to construct stories which they then match to different verdict categories.
  • Step 1 - the jurors construct a story.
  • Step 2 - the jurors decide how guilty a person is.
  • Step 3 - the jurors make their decision/verdict.
  • Story Order is when witnesses and evidence are presented in a logical order of events so that the jury can build a picture of the events in their minds and use the evidence better.
1 of 18

Pennington and Hastie's Study

Aim:  to investigate whether story order or witness order is more influential to the jury.

Method:  laboratory experiment

Participants:  130 American Students who were paid to take part in the study.

Procedure:  the participants were placed into four conditions (1 - both story order, 2 - both witness order, 3 - defence story and prosecution witness and 4 - defense witness, prosecution story)

The participants listened to a recording of the stimulus trial.  They were told to reach a guilty or not guilty verdict on a murder charge.  In the story condition evidence was arranged in its natural order and in the witness condition evidence was arranged like it was in the original trial. 

Results:  Group 1 - 59% guilty verdict.  Group 2 - 63% guilty verdict.  Group 3 - 31% guilty verdict and Group 4 78% guilty verdict.  Story order persuaded more jurors of the defendant's guilt in the prosecution case.  In the defence presented its evidence in witness order the results go up.

2 of 18


One trait a lawyer absolutely has to have is persuasiveness.  The ability to persuade floating jurors makes the difference between a guilty sentence and an acquittal.  Lawyers can call forward eye witnesses as key witnesses to try to persuade a jury.  Expert witnesses are used in criminal trials by the defence to add scientific credence to evidence and warn the jurors of the possible problems with eye witness testimony.  Jurors tend to disagree with these warnings and believe eye witness accounts.  

Yale model of communication:

  • Source - credence and knowledge
  • Message - have an emotional appeal
  • Recipient - educated audience (two sided argument)
  • Situation - more persuasive if delivered in a more informal manner.
3 of 18

Cutler's Study

Aim:  does expert witness effect juror decision making by making them more sceptical about eye witness testimony.

Method:  lab experiment (video tape of mock trial)

Participants:  538 under graduate students

Procedure:  each undergraduate student was asked to watch the mock video tape and answer a questionnaire.   IV1 - witness identifying conditions which were either good (no disguise) or bad (with disguise).  IV2 - witness confidence with 100% confidence in good WIC or 80% confidence with the bad WIC.  IV3 - form of testimony.  Either the expert witness gives descriptive testimony with good WIC or statitistical testimony with the bad WIC.  IV4 - expert opinion where the expert witness gave an opinion on the accuracy of the eye witness testimony either 20/25 in the good WIC or 7/25 in the bad WIC.   There were three independent variables which were The Verdict, A memory test and the confidence of the verdict. 

Results:  The good WIC leads to more guilty verdicts.  Juror memory accurately recalled 85% of trial details and juror confidence was high in the good WIC.  

4 of 18

Evidence being ruled Inadmissible

Evidence that falls into a category deemed so unreliable that a court should not consider it as part of deciding a case, eg hearsay evidence or an experts opinion that is not based on facts generally accepted in the field.  

However, if the prosecution "accidentally" reveals something about the defendant that had previously been ruled inadmissable then the judge will tell the jury to disregard what has been said.  

Admissable evidence in a court of law is any statement, document or tangible evidence that establishes or bolsters a point (relevant, reliable, unprejudiced). 

Opinion evidence is generally not admissable, however, there are some exceptions, eg stating whether you thought someone was drunk or high.

5 of 18

Pickel's Study

Aim:  to look at the role of the judge's instructions when they were followed by legal explanation.

Method:  lab experiment with a mock jury.

Participants:  236 university students

Procedure:  participants listened to an audio tape of a mock trial in which critical evidence is revealed by a witness which is objected to and ruled inadmissable.   In condition one, the instruction is followed by a legal explanation.  In condition two no explanation is given and in condition three the evidence is not ruled as inadmissable.  Participants were asked to fill in a questionnaire giving their verdict, the confidence of their verdict, a 10 point rating scale of the effect of the knowledge of the prior conviction and the credibility of the witness.

Results:  Mock jurors who had evidence ruled as inadmissable but received no explanation did not ignore it and found the defendant guilty.  Those given a legal explanation could not ignore it and were less likely to find the defendent guilty.  The credibility of witnesses and the knowledge of prior convictions had no significant effect. 

6 of 18

Attractiveness of the Defendent

Dion said that physically attractive people are deemed to have other attractive qualities which is known as the halo effect.

Efran found that good looking criminals received lighter sentences and penalities.

Therefore, when a jury is deciding on a verdict the physical appearance of the defendent will affect their decision.  In the same way as people deemed unattractive will be deemed to have negative attributions to their personality.

7 of 18

Castellow's Study

Aim:  to test the hypothesis that an attractive defendent is less likely to be found guilty.

Method:  independent measures mock trial.

Participants:  71 male and 74 female university students.

Procedure:  Mock sexual harassment case.  The mock jurors were shown photos of the victim and the defendent, categorised into attractive and unattractive.  They then answered the question "Do you think Mr Radford is guilty of sexual harassment?".  They were also asked to rate the defendent on a 11 bipolar scales.  

Results:  The attractive defendent was found guilty 56% of the time while the unattractive defendent was found guilty 76% of the time.  When the victim was seen as attractive the guilty verdict was 77% and when the victim was unattractive the guilty verdict was 55%.  

8 of 18

Witness Confidence

  • People will tend to trust a more confident person.
  • Perceived nervousness as evidence of being unsure or lying.
  • Some witnesses may appear confident, however, what they are recalling is not accurate at all.
  • Juries can become swayed by this and use the delivery of what the witness is saying as a key factor for their decided verdict.
9 of 18

Penrod and Cutler's Study

Aim:  to examine several factors, including confidence, that juror's might consider when evaluating eye witness evidence.

Method:  indepdent mesaures design mock trial.

Participants:  538 university students

Procedure:  A video taped robbery trial was presented in which the eye witness identification played a key role.  The eye witness testified that they were either 80 or 100% confident that they had identified the robber.  

Results:  A 100% witness confidence led to a 67% rate of conviction.  While 80% witness confidence led to a 60% rate of conviction.

10 of 18

Effects of Shields and Videotapes

In many cases involving sexual abuse, kidnapping or domestic violence a child is the only victim. The court room procedures can be very stressful and traumatic for children.  Sometimes children are allowed to give evidence from behind a screen to reduce the stress.  

Many defence councels have argued that this prejudiced to the defendent as it may appear to the jury that the child is in need of protection suggesting that the defendent is indeed guilty prior to conviction.

There are a number of difficulties with having children in court appearing as witnesses, such as:

  • distress (cross examination, recalling abuse and seeing their abuser)
  • suggestability (easily swayed/make things up).  Jurors are unimpressed by children.

One solution to this is to allow the child to be interviewed in another room which is appearing in the court on a video screen.  

11 of 18

Ross's Study

Aim:  to look at whether the use of shields and videotapes increases guilty verdicts. 

Method:  mock trial using real court transcripts

Participants:  300 participants split into three conditions. 

Procedure:  3 versions of the transcript were filmed using actors.  One in the videotape condition, one in the shield condition and one in the control.  The child actor would give evidence and the case went on for two hours, involved the father (the abuser), the mother, two expert witnesses and the child.  The judge gave a warning on the use of shields/videos.  The partiipants were then asked for their verdict.

Results:  No significant difference in the guilty verdicts across the three groups.  However, there was a significantly higher tendency for females to find the defendent guilty.  

12 of 18

Stages and Influences on Decision Making

Juror's Task:

  • 1. - absorb information from witnesses, lawyers, judge and defendent
  • 2 - make sense of it.
  • 3 - select useful evidence
  • 4 - create a sequence of events
  • 5 - argue your view point with the other jurors.

Jury Room

  • Locked in a room together
  • Sometimes not let out until they have reached a unanimous verdict
  • May have met each other for coffee but is the first chance for a proper discussion
  • Judge may allow a majority verdict (10 to 2) if jury cannot agree
  • May last for days.
13 of 18

Hastie's Study

Aim:  to observe the group social processes involved in jury decision making.

Method:  controlled lab experiment using mock trial.

Participants:  828 mock jurors

Procedure:  There were three conditions.  Condition one - they were required to arrive at a unanimous verdict.  Condition two - they were required to reach a majority verdict.  Condition three - they were required to reach a divided verdict (8 to 4).  All the groups were video taped.  

Results:  The stages in jury decision making and the social processed involved were the Orientation Period where the jurors are relaxed having open discussion, raising questions and exploring facts in which everyone is free to have their say.  The jurors then go into Open Confrontation where the debate turns fierce, different interpretations are explained, the focus is on the many details of the case and there is intense pressure on the minority to conform.  Then they go into the Reconciliation in which a group decision is established, the pressure drops and they begin to smooth things over.

14 of 18

Majority Influence

Conformity is givng into social or group pressure.  It could involve being persuaded to go along with something by friends or when you change your belief or attitude about something to fit in with those around you.  In the court room this would be when the minority jurors conform with the views of the majority in regards to reaching a verdict.  

There are three types of conformity:

  • compliance (changing behaviour to avoid public disapproval)
  • identification (changing your behaviour to that of a group and beginning to identify with the group)
  • internalisation (when an individual genuinely changes their attitude to that of a group or person)

Informational social influence is when people change their behaviour in order to be right.

Normative social influence is when people change their behaviour in order to be liked.

15 of 18

Asch's Study

Aim:  To investigate the effect of majority influence on a minority (of one) using a similar perceptual discrimination task.

Method:  lab experiment.

Participants:  123 male students

Procedure:  79 people were sat around a table.  They were shown an image of a standard line and three comparison lines.  The real participant was seated among confederates.  The true participant could see that one of the lines was obviously a match and the others were wrong.  In 12 out of 18 trials the confederates were told to give the wrong answer.  In six trials the right answer was given by the confederates.

Results:  overall the conformity rate was 37%.  5% of people conformed on every critical trial and only 25% of people never conformed. 

16 of 18

Minority Influence

Minority influence occurs when a minority rejects the established norm of the majority of group members and gets the majority to move to the position of the minority.    Minority influence can be the result of informational social influence, the desire to be right.  

Minorities in situations like the court room rarely win the day, however, they do occasionally convert the majority.  If the minority is consistent and flexible and their arguments are relevant then they may eventually win over the opinions of the majority.  The consistency with which the group defends an advocates position is the most crucial.

This consistency must be maintained between the minority group and over time if the minority members agree amongst themselves and continue to do so, they may persuade the majority to question its own assumptions and seriously consider those of the minority.  To be successful the people in the minority must not appear to be rigid and dogmatic, but flexible in their approach and willing to discuss the reasons why they disagree with the majority.

17 of 18

Moscovici's Study

Aim:  to investigate the effects of a consistent minority on the opinions of the majority.

Method:  lab experiment. 

Procedure:  they were placed in a group consisting of four participants and two confederates. They were shown 36 slides which were clearly different shades of blue and asked to state the colour of each slide out loud.  In the first part of the experiment the two confederates answered green for all 36 slides and were totally consistent in their responses.  In the second part of the experiment they answered green 24 times and blue 12 times.  In this case they were inconsistent with their answers. 

Results:  in condition one it was found that the consistent minority had an effect on the majority (8.4%) compared to an inconsistent minority (only 1.25% said green). A third (32%) judged the slides to be green at least once.  

18 of 18


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Criminological and Forensic Psychology resources »