Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Kevin O'Neil

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Stewart D'Alessio

Third Advisor's Name

Howard Wasserman

Fourth Advisor's Name

Nadja Shrieber

Fifth Advisor's Name

Janat Parker

Date of Defense



The civil jury has been under attack in recent years for being unreliable and incompetent. Considering the myriad causes for poor civil juror decision-making, the current investigation explores both procedural and evidentiary issues that impact juror's decisions. Specifically, the first phase of this dissertation examines how jurors (mis)use evidence pertaining to the litigants when determining liability and awarding damages. After investigating how jurors utilize evidence, the focus shifts to exploring the utility of procedural reforms designed to improve decision-making (specifically revising the instructions on the laws in the case and bifurcating the damage phases of the trial). Using the results from the first two phases of the research, the final study involves manipulating pieces of evidence related to the litigants while exploring the effects that revising the judicial instructions have on the utilization of evidence in particular and on decision-making in general.

This dissertation was run on-line, allowing participants to access the study materials at their convenience. After giving consent, participants read the scenario of a fictitious product liability case with the litigant manipulations incorporated into the summary. Participants answered several attitudinal, case-specific, and comprehension questions, and were instructed to find in favor of one side and award any damages they felt warranted. Exploratory factor analyses, Probit and linear regressions, and path analyses were used to analyze the data (M-plus and SPSS were the software packages used to conduct the analyses). Results indicated that misuse of evidence was fairly frequent, though the mock jurors also utilized evidence appropriately. Although the results did not support bifurcation as a viable procedural reform, revising the judicial instructions did significantly increase comprehension rates. Trends in the data suggested that better decision-making occurred when the revised instructions were used, thus providing empirical support for this procedural reform as a means of improving civil jury decision-making. Implications for actual trials and attorneys are discussed.





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