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PYCHOLOGY OF THE COURTROOM

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Introduction

PYCHOLOGY OF THE COURTROOM Trial Procedures 'While the jury can contribute nothing of value so far as the law is concerned, it has infinite capacity for mischief, for twelve men (sic) can easily misunderstand more law in a minute than the judge can explain in an hour.' Judge Jerome Frank (USA) 1948. Juries listen to evidence sometimes over considerable period of time without having a legal context in which to place it. By the time and explanation of its legal relevance is provided - when the judge gives the final summing up - the evidence has all been heard and must be recalled to mind and fitted within the legal framework. It is scarcely surprising, therefore, to find that if a judicial summing up simultaneously reminds jurors of some evidence they heard but instructs them to disregard it, the admonishment appears to be counter productive (Hastie et al 1983). Studies of juror comprehension of legal instructions have produced conflicting results. In a study by Heuer and Penrod (1995) who questioned jurors who had participated in real trials, the jurors became less confident that the verdict complied with judicial instructions as the quantity of information increased. However, they were still content with the fairness of the proceedings, although they were more confident of that where they were able to question witnesses. Work of Prosecution and Defence Lawyers Lawyers will attempt to use psychological techniques to support the jury accepting their case. Frederick (1990) has detailed some of the more important features of opening and closing statements that help to persuade juries of their position. ...read more.

Middle

One can extrapolate from this study to the jury situation in which the majority may pressurise a dissenting individual until they bow to the pressure and go with the majority view. The pressure on an individual (or number of individuals) to conform is important because in most countries (with the exception of England and Wales in certain cases) juries are required to give a unanimous verdict. Whilst the trial judge will ask if a unanimous verdict has been reached he/she will not ask how this decision was arrived at. The fact that the privacy of the jury room is regarded as sacrosanct means that if bullying or even threats are made by some jury members against others, this is unlikely to come to light. Leadership within Juries In theory all the jurors are equal, but in practice they have to elect a foreperson who will relate their decision back to the court. This person may or may not be the actual leader of the group, however, and dominance hierarchies soon develop with a handful of individuals tending to control the discussion. Others participate to much slower rate and some merely watch from the sidelines. This phenomenon - allowing some people to do all work - has been called social loafing (Latane et al 1979). The jury foreperson occupies a crucial role in the decision-making process and research suggests that this role is most likely to be occupied by someone of higher socio-economic status, someone who was had previous experience as a jury, someone who simply sits at the head of the table the first time the jury meets, or who speaks first (Strodtbeck and Lipinski 1985). ...read more.

Conclusion

There are also many practical problems with using children as Ps. Children may well give socially desirable responses and show demand characterisitcs because they want to please adults, especially strangers (i.e. the researcher). Thus the validity of findings from such studies may well be contaminated by the socially desirable behaviours that the children may be showing. Further, children may not understand instructions given to them and certainly are easily confused (as shown in Samuel and Bryant's study from the AS level course). How questions are worded and how they are asked if very important when working with children. Additionally the whole setting of the research may elicit different responses from children. In a classic study, Labov found that Black children gave different responses in regards to detail and quantity, to Black interviewers compared to White interviewers. Thus who the researcher is and where the study takes place may have more of an effect on child Ps than we may suspect. Again these factors reduce both the reliability and the validity of studies which use children as Ps. Point 3: Ethical Concerns Children can not give informed consent so their parent(s)/gaurdians need to, but even then are they aware of what may upset their child? Children are also more vulnerable due to their status as minors. Thus they are more vunerable to potential harm and may not understand their right to withdraw, indeed they may be so intimidated by the authority of the researcher that they would never ask to leave. All of these are very important considerations due to the often controversial and potentially anxiety provoking settings and issues that this area is concerned with. ...read more.

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