Jury Duty, Selection, the Asch Experiment, and 12 Angry Men

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If you've ever been selected for jury duty there might be a number of different things going through your head, and if you happen to be a defendant, hopefully your jury is not like the one in the illustration above.

Some people believe that being selected for jury duty is very similar to voting, it is one's civic duty and it should be an honor, some might bring preconceived biases about defendants based on the type of trial; murder and sexual abuse cases tend to yield more "guilty" verdicts from jurors, this jury would be said to have generic prejudice, which means they'll convict someone more than the average jury (Weiner, Arnott, Winter, & Redmond, 2006). Now I have never been selected for jury duty, most likely because I have only been registered to vote for a few years. For some reason, I remember that when I was growing up my mom would frequently get called for jury duty. I can remember at least three instances when she had to go. Being that I was a youngster and my dad was usually at work, she had to take care of me during the day, apparently that was a sufficient excuse to get out of jury duty. I guess it was just a pain in the neck to go down to the courthouse. It's probably a good thing that she got out of it, because I know her and if she couldn't get out of it, she would have just agreed with the majority of the jury to get the entire process over with. Much like the man in 12 Angry Men who changes his vote so he could leave and catch the baseball game. This would not have led to the selection of an impartial jury if she was selected. The strength and efficiency of a jury is primarily based around their ability to remain impartial (Schneider, Coutts, & Gruman, 2012). Upon doing some further research, I came across many websites that were devoted specifically to getting out of jury duty, apparently my mom isn't the only one.

I came across an article here in Cleveland that talks about a local judge who was questioning possible jurors for his trial and one responded about their old friend Jeffrey Dahmer! Dahmer was originally from this area of town so it's not a surprise that someone eventually got selected for jury duty who knew him. Needless to say this juror was excused from jury duty.

The Asch experiment is a perfect example of one of the ways that social psychology has contributed to learning more about human behavior; this experiment showed how people tend to follow along with the group even when they know that the answer (or right way) is wrong. Here's another clip from Candid Camera that shows the essence of the Asch experiment, it's quite funny. I'm reminded of the movie 12 Angry Men when I think about the Asch Experiment. I think a very compelling theory that was done by Asch regarding conformity in group decision making is that it happens amongst jurors. This movie is a wonderful example of how it's very easy to conform to group decisions that act as an individual. While this movie is much more than that, it's a good representation of how this can happen on a jury when someone's life is at stake.

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References:

Schneider, F. W., Coutts, L. M., & Gruman, J. A. (2012). Applied social psychology, understanding and addressing social and practical problems. (2nd ed.). Sage Publications, Inc.

Weiner, R.L., Arnott, L., Winter, R.J. & Redmond, B.F. (2006). Generic Prejudice and the Law: Sexual Assault and Homicide. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 28, 145-155.

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