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Social Psychology and the Law

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Presentation on theme: "Social Psychology and the Law"— Presentation transcript:

1 Social Psychology and the Law
Chapter 16 Social Psychology and the Law

2 Social Psychology and the Law
Studying the legal system helps psychologists see how behavior occurs in complex, personally relevant, and emotion-laden contests.

3 Eyewitness Testimony Eyewitness identifications are frequently inaccurate.

4 Eyewitness Testimony The three basic processes of acquisition, storage, and retrieval influence eyewitness memory, just as they influence all memory.

5 Eyewitness Testimony Two groups of factors influence eyewitness identification Estimator variables concern the eyewitness and the situation System variables are under the direct control of the criminal justice or legal system.

6 Eyewitness Testimony Viewing Opportunity
The longer witnesses look and the more attention they are able to pay, the more accurate their identifications However, witnesses are just as likely to think they can make an identification if they have witnessed an event under poor viewing conditions.

7 Eyewitness Testimony Stress and Arousal
Stress increases memory for the event itself but decreases memory for what preceded and followed the incident

8 Eyewitness Testimony Weapon Focus Effect
People tend to keep their eye on weapons because of their danger and novelty This distracts their attention from the robbers

9 Eyewitness Testimony Own-Race Bias
People are more accurate in identifying members of their own race Own-race bias decreases with experience with other groups Thus blacks are more accurate in identifying whites than vice versa.

10 Eyewitness Testimony Retention Interval
Accuracy drops with time rapidly at first, then levels off.

11 Eyewitness Testimony Suggestive Questioning
The way witnesses are questioned influences their memories of the event. Some questions are suggestive but not deliberately misleading E.g. Loftus & Palmer found that people said a car had been going faster in an accident if they asked about its speed when it “smashed” into the other car as opposed to “hit” it Other questions are deliberately misleading, asking about nonexistent details.

12 Eyewitness Testimony Three hypotheses for how post-event information affects memory over-writing forgetting source monitoring People retain memories of both the event and any post-event information but cannot identify the source of the memories Evidence supports the latter.

13 Eyewitness Testimony Lineup Biases
The way lineups are conducted can have a tremendous effect on the accuracy of eyewitness identification.

14 Eyewitness Testimony Show-ups Simultaneous lineups Sequential lineups
asks witnesses to indicate whether or not a single witness is the perpetrator Simultaneous lineups show the witness several potential suspects at the same time. Sequential lineups show potential suspects one at a time

15 Eyewitness Testimony Sequential lineups allow the most careful attention to each person and the most careful decision-making and are most accurate.

16 Eyewitness Testimony Another aspect of lineups is choosing foils (people other than the suspect in the lineup). Identifications are most accurate when all of the foils look like the witness’s initial description of the perpetrator.

17 Eyewitness Testimony Instructions given to eyewitnesses are also important. Identifications are most accurate when the witness is told that the suspect “may or may not” be in the lineup.

18 Eyewitness Testimony This research has affected U.S. Department of Justice guidelines for police to use when questioning eyewitnesses.

19 Criminal Defendants Voluntary False Confessions.
Coerced complaint false confessions when people are pressured to admit guilt but privately believe their own innocence. Coerced internalized false confessions when people come to believe they committed crimes they did not commit. This may occur when the behavior seems plausible and when other people claim they are guilty.

20 Criminal Defendants Lie Detection
Observers do not detect lies at much better than chance rates Despite nonverbal leakage Law enforcement professionals are generally not more accurate There is no correlation between how well people believe they detect lies and how well they actually do

21 Criminal Defendants Polygraph (“lie detector”) tests
ask suspects to answer questions while hooked to a machine that records physiological responses. The control question test asks about the critical, as well as about unrelated, wrongdoings. The accuracy of polygraph tests is debated advocates claim 90% accuracy, while published research estimates 57-76% accuracy, not much better than chance (50%).

22 Criminal Defendants How do characteristics of defendants influence the decisions made by juries? Physically attractive defendants are less likely to be found guilty. Black defendants receive disproportionately harsher sentences than whites. This result is found in archival studies while the results of lab studies are inconsistent.

23 Criminal Defendants Aversive racism theory
People should suppress racist thoughts when race is salient Race may have an effect when people are unaware that it may have one. Race may have an effect when people’s behavior can be justified by factors other than race. According to this theory, jurors would be more likely to discriminate in trials where the race of the defendant is not made salient.

24 Criminal Defendants Sommers and Ellsworth (2000, 2001)
Participants read about a white or black defendant who slapped his girlfriend in public. Half read that the defendant said, “You know better than to talk that way about a man in front of his friends.” The other half read the same sentence with the words “white man” or “black man.” In the first condition (race not salient), white participants made harsher judgments against the black than against the white; there was no difference in the race-salient condition.

25 Juries Jury Selection The voir dire process allows judges and lawyers to question prospective jurors Goal is to assess the presence of biases that would interfere with their ability to render a fair judgment. Peremptory challenges allow attorneys to eliminate jurors for a number of reasons E.g., occupation or personality traits (but not race or gender)

26 Juries Demographic factors are not always predictive of verdicts
this is most likely when group membership is relevant to the case

27 Juries Jurors who are high in authoritarianism are more likely to convict. “Death qualified” juries are more likely to convict.

28 Juries According to Hastie and Pennington’s story model of jury decision making, jurors use the evidence presented in trials to create stories about the events in question. Multiple competing stories may be created The story that best fits the evidence determines the verdict chosen.

29 Juries Comprehension of Judicial Instructions
Juries may have problems understanding and applying legal instructions. On-going research is looking for solutions, for example, rewriting instructions in more “user-friendly” language and allowing jurors to take notes.

30 Juries Jury Deliberations
Twelve-person juries are more representative and spend more time deliberating than six-person juries. Juries using a unanimous decision rule discuss the evidence longer and more thoroughly than juries using a majority decision rule.

31 Expert Testimony Psychologists are increasingly asked to give expert testimony in court cases. Judges must consider the scientific reliability of the evidence, but may lack the necessary background to rule effectively.

32 Expert Testimony Expert testimony that draws links between the research and the particular case has larger influence on jurors than research that just presents the research findings.

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