Preventing the Application of Stereotypic Biases in the Courtroom: The Role of Detailed Testimony1

Authors

  • Melinda Jones

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    1. University of Pittsburgh at Bradford
      Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Melinda Jones, Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, 300 Campus Drive, Bradford, PA 16701-2898. e-mail: mlj+@pitt.edu.
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  • 1

    A version of this article was presented at the April 1992 meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association. Portions of this research were completed while the author held a visiting professor appointment at the University of Redlands, Redlands, California. Thanks to Richard L. Moreland, Jeff S. Topping, Stephen Worchel, and anonymous reviewers for their invaluable comments on this manuscript.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Melinda Jones, Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, 300 Campus Drive, Bradford, PA 16701-2898. e-mail: mlj+@pitt.edu.

Abstract

To determine whether detailed testimony has equivalent effects on judgments of stereotyped and nonstereotyped defendants, subjects read a synopsis of a criminal court case in which the defendant either was a stereotyped offender or was not. Additionally, the degree of detail in the prosecution testimony and defense testimony was varied. Results indicated that defendant stereotypicality had a greater impact under conditions in which witnesses provided equal amounts of detail in their testimony. When witnesses differed in the degree of detail in their testimony, the stereotypicality of the defendant was disregarded and judgments favored the witness who provided greater detail. These findings suggest that stereotype application is not inevitable; rather, stereotypes may bias jurors' decision-making processes when the quality and quantity of the evidence does not easily lead to a confident judgment.

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