Undergraduate Psychology Research Methods Journal


Jurors arguably play the most influential role in determining the outcome of most criminal trials. The U.S. legal system relies on them to make unbiased, substantiated decisions based on evidence presented in court. The problem with this expectation is that jurors are ordinary people who are subject to the influence of extralegal factors – variables that are not legally related to a case (e.g. how a defendant looks). Unfortunately, when jurors hold implicit biases regarding the appearance of defendants, extralegal factors, such as race, tend to have at least some impact on their verdict (Maeder & Hunt, 2011; Mitchell, Haw, Pfiefer, & Meissner, 2005; Sommers, 2007). The present study aimed to evaluate the effects of visual information and race salience on conviction decisions. Participants were randomly assigned to view one of five videos containing a crime scenario about an armed robbery and pictures of two defendants (White/White, White/Black, Black/White, Black/Black) or no defendants at all (No Visual). For each defendant, participants were asked to provide a verdict, justification and confidence rating for that verdict, as well as to assess the character of each defendant, and to attribute responsibility to one defendant for initiating the idea to commit the crime. Overall, it was anticipated that racial biases would be more evident in participants’ responses when defendant race was made salient, especially when defendants were presented as Black rather than White. Findings, limitations, suggestions for future research, and implications are discussed.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.

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