What effects does social pressure have on jury decisions?

Essay by DitzyAngel911College, Undergraduate April 2003

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Societies widespread use of groups could be taken as evidence that in general better decisions might emerge from groups than from individuals acting on their own. In England, juries deliberate in secret and are accountable to no one, so sometimes the verdicts seem irrational.

Kalven & Zeisel (1966) defined the liberation hypothesis. This is the theory that all jurors have already made up their decision before they go into deliberation. They then listen to each others verdicts but try to convert them to their way of thinking. This kind of social pressure may lead to bias and poorly considered decisions.

Sherif's research found that when people are in a group they look to each other for the correct answer and converse towards a group norm. This is known as an informational influence where the group look to each other for information to reduce uncertainty, and public and private acceptance. This also supports the theory that groups will be more cautious and conservative than individuals when making a decision.

There are also normative social influences, which is when the members of the group seek approval and acceptance from the other members, which leads to compliance. The person may publicly agree with what has been said but will privately disagree.

There is also the problem of group polarization. Research suggests that group decisions can lead to more extreme decisions than individual decision making. Individuals modify their views through the discussion so over all the group decision is riskier than individual members making the decision. Stoner (1961) backs up this theory, as his research showed that when he gave participants decision dilemmas, he found groups advised people to take greater risks than individuals.

The 'group think' can also become a problem when dealing with jury decision making. This is when the desire...