Jurors' use of social framework evidence

Kellye Suzanne Hebert, Florida International University


Monahan and Walker (1988) delineated three uses of social science evidence within the courts: social authority, social fact, and social framework. Social authority evidence is social science evidence used in making policy or law. Social fact evidence is social science evidence that describes research undertaken expressly for the case at hand. Social framework evidence involves providing conclusions from previously conducted social science research to assist jurors in evaluating the other evidence in the case. Although this type of evidence has traditionally been presented via expert testimony, Monahan and Walker (1988) have suggested that, because the social science research involved comes from the extant literature and is not the province of any particular expert, it would be more economical to have the judge present this information as part of the judicial instructions to the jury. This study tested the implicit assumption that the presentation of the social framework evidence by the judge will have the same impact on juror verdicts as presentation of this evidence by an expert. Two hundred mock jurors watched a videotaped hostile work environment sexual harassment trial. The social framework evidence consisted of the discussion of factors that have been found to increase the likelihood of sex stereotyping of women by men. The trial included either no social framework evidence, social framework evidence presented by the expert, or social framework evidence presented in judicial instructions. Results indicated that men who heard the social framework evidence from the judge were more likely to vote for the defendant than men who heard no social framework evidence. Men who heard the judicial instruction with the social framework evidence also rated the plaintiff as less credible than the other men and women in the study. Thus, it appears that, for men, social framework evidence presented by the judge harms the plaintiff's case by reducing ratings of her credibility, but the same evidence presented by an expert does not affect men's verdicts. For women, however, social framework evidence, irrespective of who presents it, enhances the plaintiff's case.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Law

Recommended Citation

Hebert, Kellye Suzanne, "Jurors' use of social framework evidence" (2000). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9977468.