How Sensory Processing Sensitivity Affects Juror Decision Making
Michael Conklin, How Sensory Processing Sensitivity Affects Juror Decision-Making, 97:2 DETROIT MERCY L. REV. ONLINE 1 (2020).
9 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2020
Date Written: 2020
This essay reports the findings of a first-of-its-kind study designed to measure how HSP jurors perceive cases differently from non-HSP jurors. Sensory Processing Sensitivity (“SPS”) is a personal trait that makes one cognitively sensitive to certain stimuli, including one’s own internal processes as well as external stimuli. Internal stimuli may include an increased sensitivity to one’s own emotions or bodily sensations. External stimuli include environmental or social factors, such as the emotional or social cues of others. There are four dimensions of SPS, which reflect the thinking of highly sensitive people (“HSPs”) in novel, intense, and/or unpredictable situations. The dimensions include: 1) increased awareness of sensory stimuli, 2) inhibition of behavior, 3) deep cognitive processing of sensory information, and 4) increased emotionality..SPS has been demonstrated to be related to stress and burnout at work, as well as increased emotional reactions and empathy. These dimensions have also been associated with better decision-making.
It is estimated that roughly 20% of any given population is comprised of HSPs. Various findings regarding the thought processes and emotional reactions of HSPs suggest that SPS could be related to how a person views the commission of a crime. For example, due to their heightened sense of emotionality, HSPs are said to be more engaged with the emotions they experience, as well as to the emotions of others. HSPs have been found to be more responsive toward positive emotions of close persons, negative emotions of others in general, or situations that are perceived to have heightened emotional content or conflict. In addition, SPS-specific brain areas are strongly correlated with regions in the brain that involve self-awareness, self-other processing, complex decision-making, emotional sense-making, and empathy. These findings suggest that HSPs are more likely to cognitively engage in situations that are emotionally salient, particularly with respect to social scenarios. Thus, HSPs theoretically would be more likely to have a negative emotional response to dilemmas that involve the perception of harm to others.
Keywords: sensory processing sensitivity, jury selection, juror decision making, voir dire, trial psychology
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