Twelve certain men: The impact of emotional appraisals on juror decision-making

Stephen W Joy, Florida International University


Our jury system is predicated upon the expectation that jurors engage in systematic processing when considering evidence and making decisions. They are instructed to interpret facts and apply the appropriate law in a fair, dispassionate manner, free of all bias, including that of emotion. However, emotions containing an element of certainty (e.g., anger and happiness, which require little cognitive effort in determining their source) can often lead people to engage in superficial, heuristic-based processing. Compare this to uncertain emotions (e.g., hope and fear, which require people to seek out explanations for their emotional arousal), which instead has the potential to lead them to engage in deeper, more systematic processing. The purpose of the current research is in part to confirm past research (Tiedens & Linton, 2001; Semmler & Brewer, 2002) that uncertain emotions (like fear) can influence decision-making towards a more systematic style of processing, whereas more certain emotional states (like anger) will lead to a more heuristic style of processing. Studies One, Two, and Three build upon this prior research with the goal of improving methodological rigor through the use of film clips to reliably induce emotions, with awareness of testimonial details serving as measures of processing style. The ultimate objective of the current research was to explore this effect in Study Four by inducing either fear, anger, or neutral emotion in mock jurors, half of whom then followed along with a trial transcript featuring eight testimonial inconsistencies, while the other participants followed along with an error-free version of the same transcript. Overall rates of detection for these inconsistencies was expected to be higher for the uncertain/fearful participants due to their more effortful processing compared to certain/angry participants. These expectations were not fulfilled, with significant main effects only for the transcript version (with or without inconsistencies) on overall inconsistency detection rates. There are a number of plausible explanations for these results, so further investigation is needed.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Joy, Stephen W, "Twelve certain men: The impact of emotional appraisals on juror decision-making" (2013). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3598083.