Professor’s book looks at science behind jury verdicts

October 11, 2012
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A psychology professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis has written a book using, in part, scientific research to form a new theory as to how juries reach decisions.

Dennis Devine’s book, “Jury Decision Making: The State of the Science,” takes a look at two levels of decision making – the individual juror and the jury as a whole. In his integrative theory, Devine explores the “director’s cut” model for individual jurors, in which jurors create an “edited” version of the facts of each case based on what is the most satisfying and plausible. The jury, on the other hand, utilizes a “story sampling” model, in which jurors enter deliberations with their personal stories and then share them with each other. Other jurors, the individual’s participation in the deliberation discussion, and the personal characteristics of the juror influence the final narrative from which a verdict is made, according to a news release on the new book.

Devine looked at published studies on juries since the 1950s, which have produced various models about the jury process, including the story model and social decision scheme model. The story model proposes that jurors base their decision or verdict on a chronological narrative they create from the evidence. These stories often vary across jurors because of their different backgrounds. The social decision scheme model examines the influence of initial jury votes on how people are swayed to join the majority opinion, the release says.

“Currently, there are some real disconnects between the legal system and the scientific research,” Devine said. “Attorneys value precedent and rationale. This book comes from a scholarly perspective, where we attempt to learn something from the systematic collection of data and use it to better understand this process and improve it in the future.”


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