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Impact of Class-based Prejudice toward Defendants and Victims on Mock Jurors’ Decision-Making
AuthorAlvarez, Mauricio J.
AdvisorMiller, Monica K.
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This project sought to address the lack of attention paid to social class in the context of juror decision-making. The effect of social class was evaluated using a theoretical framework of justification-suppression of prejudice and intergroup threat. Across two trial simulation studies, the social class of the defendant (Study 1) or victim (Study 2), the availability of justification, and the presence of threat was experimentally manipulated. Participants’ social class was also included as a predictor in the analyses. Results of Study 1 showed that mock jurors, regardless of their own social class, are biased against upper class defendants who are described as representing a realistic threat to the community. This bias is not apparent when there is no threat or a symbolic threat. The justification manipulation resulted in mock jurors expressing bias against upper class defendants described as a symbolic threat and as cold and unfriendly (compared to upper class defendants described as a symbolic threat and as friendly and easy going). The threat manipulation resulted in mock jurors expressing bias in favor of lower class defendants described as a realistic threat and as cold and unfriendly (compared to lower class defendants described as either symbolic or no threat and as cold and unfriendly). Results of Study 2 showed that the justification manipulation resulted in lower class mock jurors being less punitive toward a defendant who assaulted an upper class victim, but only when justification to express prejudice was present and the victim was described as a threat to the values of the community. The threat manipulation resulted in lower class mock jurors expressing bias toward upper class defendants who were described as a symbolic or realistic threat (compared to no threat). Taken together, the results from both studies show that members of lower-status groups (compared to high-status groups) are more likely to react to perceptions of threat, that mock jurors express bias against defendants and victims described as low on warmth, and that endorsement of just world beliefs and the Protestant work ethic relates to mock jurors’ decisions when the salient demographic feature of defendants is social class, but neither of these variables influence mock jurors’ decisions based on the social class of the victim of a crime. These results illustrate how the justification to express prejudice and intergroup threat might bias jurors, and suggests potential strategies for prejudice reduction based on the self-regulation of prejudice expression.