Rodney King and O. J. Revisited: The Impact of Race and Defendant Empathy Induction on Judicial Decisions

Authors


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to James D. Johnson, University of North Carolina, 601 South College Road, Wilmington, NC 28403.

Abstract

White university students participated in a study to investigate the impact of defendant race and empathetic induction on a subsequent juror decision-making task. Participants read a passage involving a Black or a White defendant in a criminal case. They were subsequently induced to feel no empathy, low empathy, or high empathy for the defendant. When compared to participants in the low- and control empathy conditions, those in the high-empathy condition reported greater target empathy, made attributions that were more situational, and assigned more lenient punishments. The results also indicate that group membership can moderate the impact of empathetic induction. When compared to the participants in the Black defendant condition, those in the White defendant condition reported greater target empathy, made attributions that were more situational, and assigned more lenient punishments. Implications for both empathy and judicial decision-making research are discussed.

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