Suppressing the Expression of Community Values in Juries: How Legal Priming Systematically Alters the Way People Think

21 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2006  

Justin D. Levinson

University of Hawaii - William S. Richardson School of Law

Abstract

Legal systems that rely on juries assume that juror decision-making imports an accurate representation of community values and norms into legal decisions. Yet, rather than successfully importing community values into legal decision-making, the notion of "the law" itself may act as a unique cultural construct that primes jurors to unconsciously think in terms of shared implicit constructs of "law", "juror" and "justice" when in the legal setting. The author examined how lay decision-making changed in the United States and in China when dependent variables were framed as questions of legal impact. Results indicated that participants in both countries scored identical questions differently when questions were primed as legal questions, but that participants from each country were affected in opposite directions by the legal prime. American participants in the legal prime category made more culpable criminal judgments than participants in the non-legal domain, indicating that the legal context heightens culpability judgments for Americans. In contrast, Chinese participants in the legal prime category made less culpable judgments than in the non-legal domain, demonstrating that Chinese are more lenient in the legal setting than in lay judgments. The results raise the question of whether community values are truly reflected in jury decision making, or whether shared, primed notions of law and justice unconsciously overcome the influence of life experience and cultural diversity in decision-making. The author discusses whether implicit and prejudicial stereotypes may be systematically harbored in the American "legal culture".

Keywords: Juries, culture, psychology, decision-making, community values, legal culture, mass media, China, priming, stereotypes

JEL Classification: K10, K40, K41, D70, J70, K33, K19

Suggested Citation

Levinson, Justin D., Suppressing the Expression of Community Values in Juries: How Legal Priming Systematically Alters the Way People Think. University of Cincinnati Law Review, Vol. 73, pp. 1059-1079, 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=889191

Justin D. Levinson (Contact Author)

University of Hawaii - William S. Richardson School of Law ( email )

2515 Dole Street
Honolulu, HI 96822-2350
United States

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