The Emotions That Prosecutors Elicit to Make Jurors Vote Guilty


Lauren Kirchner in Pacific Standard:

Recently, two psychologists teamed up to analyze and identify the emotions that have the most impact on the outcome of jury trials. They had participants in mock trials read scenarios and look at crime-scene evidence, and keep track of their feelings throughout the experiment. The researchers found that anger paired with disgust makes up the powerful mix of emotions that we often call “moral outrage.” The authors also concluded that this particular response—more than sadness, more than the desire for vengeance, more than any other emotion—is the one that most often brings jurors to vote to convict, and to be confident in those convictions.

“Humans intuitively understand what moral outrage is,” said Jessica M. Salernoo, co-author of the study, published in the journal Psychological Science. “However, researchers debate its emotional components. We wanted to investigate the relationships between anger and disgust since emotions tend to co-occur with each other.” Salerno and her co-author, Liana C. Peter-Hagene, note that this mix of emotions is entirely involuntary, and the jurors can often be unaware that they are feeling it—which makes it that much more effective.

After the study concluded, Salerno also suggested that the increasing ubiquity of cameras may mean that this factor will be an increasingly important one in jury trials to come. Personal cameras are cheaper, lighter, and used more frequently than ever; public and private surveillance cameras capture more everyday action than ever before, as well. That means that future prosecutors will be that much more likely to have visual evidence available to them when planning their cases.

More here.