Studied the theory

What effect does the order in which a testimony is presented have on persuading a jury? (10) A3)a) The order in a which testimony is heard can have different effects on the jury’s verdict. One such study that investigates this is Pennington’s study on primacy effects. He studied the theory that because the minds of the jurors and all those present in the courtroom are more awake and interested in the trial’s beginning, than in the end when it is believe that the freshness and interest in the trail will have worn off.

Because of the adversarial justice system used in UK courts, the jury have the final verdict of guilt or innocence on the accused. And because, in this system, the prosecution is heard first and the defence last, it can be assumed that the number of guilty verdicts heard under this system is greater than the number of innocent verdicts because the jury pay more attention to the case when the prosecution is heard.

In the study conducted, Pennington used a mock jury with a group of participants who heard the prosecution first and the defence last, and another group who heard the defence first and the prosecution last. He measured the amount of guilty verdicts in each and found that there was a greater tendency to find the same defendant guilty in conditions that reflected a real adversarial system. This study shows how our adversarial system can lead to a bias of guilt through the presence of primacy effects in the courtroom.

Q3)b) Discuss limitations of research into persuading a jury (15) Psychologists have always been interested in courtroom behaviour, and what leads jurors to make the decisions they do, but there are limitations to what they can reliably research. One of the main limitations of psychology in the courtroom is that no-one except the jurors are allowed in the deliberating room when they come to a verdict.

As well as this, the jurors are sworn to secrecy about what is said about the case in the deliberating room and so psychologists cannot find out via self-report or interviews. Because of this, psychologists resort to using shadow juries (twelve people in the courtroom, witnessing a court case, who then deliberate as if they were the real jury) or mock juries (who witness recordings of previous or staged cases and then deliberate). There are problems with this though, as there are no legal or moral consequences of the actions the mock/shadow juries wish to take against the defendant if found guilty.

Another limitation to conducting psychological research in a courtroom is that none of the proceedings is allowed to be recorded via cameras/journals, etc., unless it is for official purposes such as future reference for the police. So there are problems with the reliability of the memory of the shadow jury if there is no way of accurately recording information, as memory recall is very unreliable (as proven by Elizabeth Loftus, who studied the unreliability of memory reconstruction).

A further limitation presents itself in that there is no way of controlling what happens in a courtroom. It is possible that the unpredictability of the lack of control the psychologists have over what happens means that they will not always find what they are looking in courtroom behaviour. All these limitations make psychology in the courtroom difficult, but there are alternatives to increase the reliability of studies conducted in a courtroom.

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