An attributional analysis of jurors' judgments in civil cases


Jurors' assessment of disputants in civil cases can be conceptualized as an attributional task. An experiment was designed to test the hypothesis that jurors, in the process of performing their attributional analyses of disputants, would exhibit judgmental biases that favor the defendant and disfavor the plaintiff. A total of 166 college students witnessed slide-tape presentations of trials for two civil cases. Each trial represented one condition in a 2 × 2 (Roles × Order) factorial design: Jurors (a) either heard Actors X and Y assume the roles of plaintiff and defendant or heard the same actors assume the opposite roles and (b) expressed their verdicts either before or after engaging in an attributional analysis of each litigant's behavior. The results supported the hypothesis. Juror's attributional analyses in both trials reflected a bias against the plaintiff. Each actor's behavior was attributed more often to hostile intentions and negative stereotypes when he assumed the role of plaintiff than when he was the defendant. Juror's verdicts also reflected a bias against the plaintiff, with votes for each actor in both trials decreasing as he shifted from defendant to plaintiff. No significant order effect was detected in either trial. © 1985 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

Publication Title

Journal of Social Psychology