Monday, July 18, 2016

Who Do Jurors Blame More: the Victim or the Perpetrator?

The answer depends on the values of the juror. A blog posting by the firm of Holland & Hart   discusses a recent psychological study. The finding:

"The higher participants were in binding values," meaning purity, loyalty, and obedience, "and the lower they were in individualizing values," meaning care, fairness, and the avoidance of harm, "the more they judged victims as responsible and as having made a difference to the outcome." And it is not just a matter of focusing on a bit of shared responsibility on the victim's part, it is an effect that extends all the way to what they call "inverted moral judgment," where the victim receives more attention and more blame than the perpetrator. They also observed that these moral foundations bleed over into non-moral decisions, like causal responsibility. They concluded, "Binding values are linked with victim stigmatization, whereas individualizing values are linked with sensitivity to victim suffering."

This carries a few implications for trial lawyers. . . .

Over the course of four studies, the authors focus on the content of individual moral values in order to predict attitudes toward victims in scenarios like the one above. They find that those who put the greatest emphasis on the "binding values" of loyalty, obedience, and purity will increase blame toward victims, while those who emphasize "individualizing values," focusing on care, fairness, and a prohibition against harm, will instead focus foremost on the perpetrators. This research carries clear implications for litigators: In both civil and criminal contexts, there are perceived victims and perpetrators, and the individual differences in how we blame one versus the other is important to both jury selection and message construction.

The posting is well worth reading. You can access it here.


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