The Impact of Minimal Versus Extended Voir Dire and Judicial Rehabilitation on Mock Jurors’ Decisions in Civil Cases

Jessica M. Salerno, John C. Campbell, Hannah J. Phalen, Samantha R. Bean, Valerie P. Hans, Daphna Spivack, Lee Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objectives: Three experiments tested the utility of minimal versus extended voir dire questions in predicting mock jurors’ verdicts and damage awards, and whether the biasing impact of their preexisting attitudes on case judgments could be reduced by judicial rehabilitation. Hypotheses: We hypothesized that extended voir dire questions would be more predictive of case judgments than minimal voir dire questions. We hypothesized that judicial rehabilitation would not reduce this impact of preexisting attitudes on case judgments. Method: Across three experiments, each focusing on a different civil case (insurance bad faith, wrongful birth, medical malpractice misdiagnosis), online participants (N = 2,041; 62% female; 77% White, 9% African American, 6% Asian/Pacific Islander, 6% Hispanic or Latino/a; Mage = 40) were paid MTurk workers. They were randomly assigned to experience (a) no voir dire, minimal voir dire focusing on previous legal experience and self-identification of biases, or extended voir dire focusing on specific attitudes about civil litigation, parties, and laws, and (b) no judicial rehabilitation, or judicial rehabilitation, before judging the case. Participants read a civil case, made case judgments, and completed bias awareness measures. Results: Demographic information and minimal voir dire questions did not predict case judgments, but the majority of extended voir dire responses predicted verdicts and damage awards. Judicial rehabilitation did not reduce the biasing impact of their preexisting attitudes on case judgments—but did result in mock jurors reporting that they were less biased, despite judicial rehabilitation not actually reducing their bias. Conclusions: Attorneys need the opportunity during voir dire to ask jurors about specific attitudes that might bias their decisions because relying on jurors’ self-identification of their own biases has little utility. Further, although judicial rehabilitation might make jurors think that they are less biased, it may not actually reduce the impact of their preexisting attitudes on their case decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)336-355
Number of pages20
JournalLaw and human behavior
Volume45
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law

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