Matters of Life and Death: Justice in Judgments of Wrongful Death1

Authors

  • Alison P. Lenton

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Edinburgh Edinburgh, United Kingdom
      Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Alison P. Lenton, Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, 7 George Square, EH8 9JZ, Scotland, UK. E-mail: a.lenton@ed.ac.uk
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  • 1

    The author thanks the Social Cognition and Emotions lab group in the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences at Cambridge University, Reid Hastie, and an anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. This research was supported, in part, by a grant from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Alison P. Lenton, Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, 7 George Square, EH8 9JZ, Scotland, UK. E-mail: a.lenton@ed.ac.uk

Abstract

Two experiments investigated the influence of social categories on mock juror judgments of wrongful death compensatory damages. The research also examined whether these cues—decedent race, parental status, age, and socioeconomic status—differentially affected noneconomic and economic awards and, further, the extent to which jurors' distributive justice concerns could explain the findings. Results revealed a decedent's parental status to consistently impact noneconomic awards; whereas his parental status, age, and socioeconomic status all consistently affected economic awards. Decedent race did not inform participants' judgments. These results were in close alignment with the values participants expressed (Study 2) regarding the use of social categories in compensatory damage awards. Overall, the pattern of findings supports a distributive justice account.

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