The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Professional Perceptions of Jury Decision-making Research Practices

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Behavioral Sciences & the Law





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This article reports results from a survey measuring the acceptability of jury decision-making research practices. Historically, there has been wide variability in the methodology used to conduct experimental jury decision-making research. Samples can be drawn from different populations, the format of stimulus materials can vary, key elements of a trial, including jury instructions and deliberation, can be omitted, and different types of dependent measures can be used to assess decisions. The acceptability of evaluating different approaches for conducting research ultimately becomes a subjective process. The present study sought to identify professional standards regarding acceptable and unacceptable research practices by assessing the perceptions of individuals involved in conducting, reviewing, and publishing jury research. Overall, respondents (N = 74) placed greater weight on internal rather than ecological validity, and rated the utilization of theory to guide research as the most important factor. The inclusion of jury instructions was rated as the most important specific trial element, while deliberations received the least support. The findings present a guide for researchers designing materials, provide a framework for objective evaluation of manuscripts based on professional standards, offer guidance to courts seeking to determine the general acceptance of jury decision-making research methodologies, and create a foundation for the development of more standardized practices in the field

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