A fair trial relies on juries being rational and objective in the way they examine and weigh up evidence in order to come to a decision. Psychological studies have shown that a number of different processes can operate within groups which may distort the decision the jury makes. Polarisation and conformity also affect a jury’s decision. Attractiveness, sex and the background of the criminal is also considered in changing the minds of the jury. The more attractive a person is, the less likely they are to be convicted.
If a person is baby faced then they are too are likely to go without being convicted as they seem innocent as they are more childlike. The less attractive a person is the more likely they are to be convicted. Also the sex of the convict may change the mind of the jury. Males are convicted more often however; when women are convicted their sentence is usually longer. The jury expects violent or unruly behaviour from a male but not from a female therefore when it is seen in a female, they seem a bigger threat.
In Saladin’s study, he gave participants 8 photos of men and asked how capable they seemed of committing either murder or armed robbery. The attractive men were less likely to have been chosen to have committed either crime than the unattractive men. Other studies have proved this and Quigley’s study showed that this applies to women as well. It also showed that attractive people arouse more sympathy The type of background the person has also affects juries.
For instance, someone from a bad social background, living on a council estate, with little money and a bad job is convicted more often for robbery, violent crimes and drug related crimes. If a person is from a high social class they are less likely to be convicted but if they are then it is for such crimes as fraud. Polarisation is when the view reached by the group is much stronger and extreme than that reached by individuals. This means that when the jury are asked to make a recommendation about the compensation they are likely to be excessively punishing or lenient depending.
Conformity, when a person feels pressured into agreeing with the majority, may lead to parts of an argument not being exposed. For instance the person in the minority will not fight their argument as they may feel embarrassed or that they are wrong due to the fact they are the minority. Hastie found in his study that if the majority favoured an innocent verdict at the outset of the case, then in 86% of cases this was what verdict was given. If at the outset the verdict was guilty then in 90% of cases the same verdict was given at the end.
Although many people have made bold statements from their studies such as the ones I have expressed above, not all of the studies apply to real juries. Most studies are imitated in mock courts as it is seen as unethical to use a real trial as the basis for a psychological study. This therefore takes away a lot of the ecological validity. The examples I have given have been well researched in mock settings however and therefore suggest that juries in the same situation would give similar answers and have similar biases.