Research

Our experimental lab is directed by Dr. Jessica M. Salerno, an Associate Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University. We aim to both apply social psychological theory to legal contexts, and also to advance basic research about social judgment and decision making processes. Another goal of our lab is to investigate how these decision making processes might differ for individuals versus groups.  For example, we investigate how extra-legal factors influence both individual jurors’ and juries’ decisions, with a strong emphasis on the group deliberation process

 

Our laboratory is currently pursuing three programs of research exploring basic judgment and decision-making processes in legal contexts at both the individual and group level:

Emotion and Intergroup Dynamics in Legal Decision Making

We investigate how emotion affects intergroup dynamics during individual and group decision making. For example:

 

  • When does expressing emotion enhance versus detract from group members’ credibility and their ability to persuade a group during jury deliberation? Does this depend on whether the juror is a man or a woman? Black or White?

 

  • Does viewing emotionally disturbing evidence (e.g., gruesome post-mortem photographs of the victim) affect jurors' case judgments? Does this type of evidence serve a probative value that outweighs its prejudicial value?

Moral Outrage & Stigmatized Offenders

We investigate how moral outrage drives biases against stigmatized groups in ambiguous legal contexts. For example: 

 

  • Does the ambiguity surrounding how the law should deal with adolescents who engage in consensual sexual activity (e.g., sexting) provide an opportunity for people to exhibit biases against gay youth?

 

  • When jurors are asked to consider a provocation defense, are they more likely to accept that defense if the murder victim made a gay advance on the perpetrator? Does this effect depend on the jurors' political orientation?

Juror versus Jury Evaluation of Expert Testimony

We investigate how individuals and groups reach accurate evaluations of scientific evidence in court. For example: 

 

  • Can the peripheral cues about an expert (e.g., credentials) that typically impede individuals from reaching a correct decision,  actually help groups agree on a more accurate verdict? 

 

  • Does the effectiveness of safeguards meant to help jurors evaluate expert testimony depend on whether they are applied to a defense versus a plaintiff expert?