Age differences and conformity in juror decision -making

Irene Rose Prager, Florida International University


The purpose of this experiment was to investigate whether older adults conform more than young and middle-aged adults on a juror decision making task. Degree of group pressure, personality characteristics, gender, and social influence processes were also examined.^ Registered voters (208 participants) completed a personality questionnaire. Several weeks later, groups of six participants listened to a robbery case that portrayed the defendant as guilty. Afterwards, participants completed the first of two ballots. On the first, participants rated the defendant's degree of guilt and scored their degree of certainty in this verdict rating. They also indicated in writing which piece of information (a statement of evidence) from the robbery case supported their verdict ratings. Next, participants reviewed photocopies of five contrived first ballots. Then participants completed second ballots, in which they again rated the defendant's degree of guilt and scored their degree of certainty in this verdict rating. Finally, participants rated the importance of the five contrived first ballot verdict ratings (normative social influence) and statements of evidence (informational social influence) in reaching their second ballot verdict ratings.^ The results demonstrated that not only did older adults conform as expected, but all age groups conformed; that is, all age groups changed their verdict ratings. After reviewing the other jurors' contrived first ballots (group pressure), participants rated the defendant as less guilty on their second ballot than on their first. However, only older adults significantly changed their level of certainty in their verdict ratings from first to second ballot compared to young and middle-aged adults. With regard to personality characteristics, only rigidity predicted conformity in young and middle-aged adults but not in older adults. It was also found that females conformed more than males. Finally, all three age groups reported that different social influence processes (normative vs. informational) were important in reaching their second ballot verdict ratings. The results of this research indicate that various factors can influence young, middle-aged, and older adults as they reach verdicts. Knowledge of these factors may help alter stereotypes of older adults in terms of conformity, rigidity, and desirability as jurors. ^

Subject Area

Law|Psychology, Social|Psychology, Developmental|Psychology, Personality

Recommended Citation

Prager, Irene Rose, "Age differences and conformity in juror decision -making" (1995). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9610897.