Guilty or Not Guilty? A Look at the “Simulated” Jury Paradigm1


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    Portions of this study were presented at the meetings of the Midwestern Psychological Association, Chicago, May 1975 and May 1976.


Three experiments examined the effects of real versus hypothetical consequences on juridic decision-making. Real consequences subjects believed their judgments would actually determine what happened to the defendant, while hypothetical consequences subjects believed the study simply dealt with jury decision-making. In Experiment I, the defendant's character attractiveness had no influence on guilt judgments made by real consequences subjects but did so for hypothetical consequences subjects. In addition, character attractiveness affected recommendations of punishment for both real and hypothetical consequences subjects. In Experiment II, the defendant's physical attractiveness influenced neither real nor hypothetical consequences subjects on either the guilt or punishment measures. Experiment III showed that real consequences subjects recalled more situational evidence of the case than did hypothetical consequences subjects. In all three studies, more guilty verdicts occurred in the real consequences condition than in the hypothetical consequences condition. It was concluded that much current research on hypothetical juries may be misleading and that more attention should be given in the future to the variable of real versus hypothetical consequences. Possible mediating factors leading to real and hypothetical consequences differences were explored.