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Opposing experts, relative judgments and the reemergence of the neuroimage bias

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There is conflicting evidence regarding whether a biasing effect of neuroscientific evidence exists. Early research warned of such bias, but more recent papers dispute such claims, with some suggesting a

There is conflicting evidence regarding whether a biasing effect of neuroscientific evidence exists. Early research warned of such bias, but more recent papers dispute such claims, with some suggesting a bias only occurs in situations of relative judgment, but not in situations of absolute judgment. The current studies examined the neuroimage bias within both criminal and civil court case contexts, specifically exploring if a bias is dependent on the context in which the neuroimage evidence is presented (i.e. a single expert vs. opposing experts). In the first experiment 408 participants read a criminal court case summary in which either one expert witness testified (absolute judgment) or two experts testified (relative judgment). The experts presented neurological evidence in the form of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data and the evidence type varied between a brain image and a graph. A neuroimage bias was found, in that jurors who were exposed to two experts were more punitive when the prosecution presented the image and less punitive when the defense did. In the second experiment 240 participants read a summary of a civil court case in which either a single expert witness testified or two experts testified. The experts presented fMRI data to support or refute a claim of chronic pain and the evidence type again varied between image and graph. The expected neuroimage bias was not found, in that jurors were more likely to find in favor of the plaintiff when either side proffered the image, but more likely to find for the defense when only graphs were offered by the experts. These findings suggest that the introduction of neuroimages as evidence may affect jurors punitiveness in criminal cases, as well as liability decisions in civil cases and overall serves to illustrate that the influence of neuroscientific information on legal decision makers is more complex than originally thought.

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  • 2016

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Do people perceive juvenile sex offenders who are gay and Christian as hypocrites?: social identity theory and dual identity defendants

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This study investigates the presence of a dual identity defendant, and how sharing an in-group can create a judgment bias. A sample of 256 participants was used to test whether

This study investigates the presence of a dual identity defendant, and how sharing an in-group can create a judgment bias. A sample of 256 participants was used to test whether there was a relationship between judgment punitiveness, perceptions of shared identity, hypocrisy and the social identities (religion and sexual orientation) of the participants and a defendant charges with a sexual offence. Results suggest that Christian participants selected more punitive outcomes for the defendant compared to non-Christian participants. Further, participants were more punitive when the defendant was gay compared to when the defendant was heterosexual. Also, when the defendant was straight there was a stronger feeling of similarity between the participants and defendant compared to when the defendant was gay, and non-Christian participants had a stronger feeling of closeness to the defendant compared to Christian participants. There was a significant interaction found, suggesting that when the defendant was Christian and gay he was seen as more hypocritical compared to when he was Christian and straight; there was no interaction when the defendant was not Christian. These findings should aid in future research and a better understanding of how dual identity defendants are perceived in the courtroom.

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  • 2014

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How disorder onset controllability moderates the impact of biological arguments on judgments of criminal responsibility

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In recent years, the use of biologically based (neurological, neuropsychological, genetic) evidence in criminal trials as support for claims of mental impairments among offenders has increased in popularity. However, research

In recent years, the use of biologically based (neurological, neuropsychological, genetic) evidence in criminal trials as support for claims of mental impairments among offenders has increased in popularity. However, research on how exposure to those arguments affects jury decision-making remains unclear. Specifically, arguments rooted in biology sometimes mitigate and sometimes aggravate judgments of criminal responsibility for mentally ill offenders, and this discrepancy seems to stem from the specific conditions by which that disorder was acquired. The following study’s aim was to uncover the precise mechanism(s) behind this elusive effect. Utilizing a 2x2 between subjects experimental design, participants were presented with a hypothetical crime summary involving an offender with either an onset controllable or uncontrollable mental disorder. Ratings of criminal responsibility and other variables hypothesized to function as mediators were obtained after presentation of a prime supporting either a biologically deterministic or free will argument for human behavior in general. Results indicated that when the defendant’s disorder was the result of the his own actions (onset controllable), a biological prime decreased judgments of criminal responsibility; however, when the disorder was caused by factors out of his control (onset uncontrollable), the prime increased judgments of criminal responsibility. An examination of several possible mechanisms finds the effect mediated by the perception of control the defendant could have had over his own actions at the time of the crime. These results suggest that perceptions of behavioral control are an important contributor to jurors’ formation of criminal responsibility judgments when an offender possesses a mental illness; and arguments advocating a biological basis for human behavior reliably affect blame attribution, suggesting that a societal shift in the perception of free will as a result of increased exposure to biology in general may alter the framework of criminal responsibility judgments.

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  • 2017

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The impact of recanted false confession types and clarified instructions on jury decision making

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A substantial amount of research has been dedicated to understanding how and why innocent people confess to crimes that they did not commit. Unfortunately, false confessions occur even with the

A substantial amount of research has been dedicated to understanding how and why innocent people confess to crimes that they did not commit. Unfortunately, false confessions occur even with the best possible interrogation practices. This study aimed to examine how different types of false confession (voluntary, compliance, and internalization) and the use of jury instructions specific to confessions influences jurors’ verdicts. A sample of 414 participants read a criminal trial case summary that presented one of four reasons why the defendant falsely confessed followed by either the standard jury instruction for confessions or a clarified version. Afterwards, participants completed several items assessing the perceived guilt of the defendant, their attitudes on confessions in general, and their opinions on jury instructions. Although the three confession reasons did not differ among one another, jurors who were given no explanation for the false confession tended to more harshly judge the defendant. Further, the clarified jury instructions did not influence the participants’ judgments. Future research should focus on how expert witness testimonies affect verdicts regarding each type of false confession reason and whether the media may influence a juror’s knowledge of factors that could provoke false confessions.

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  • 2017