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Volume 11 Issue 3

The influence of fMRI lie detection evidence on jury decision making following post-trial deliberations.

Smethurst, A. J., Wilson, C. J., & Collins, K.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a technology that is used to study the function of the brain. It has been suggested that fMRI could be utilised as a lie detection device. However, many believe that the admittance of fMRI lie detection evidence into the courtroom would be premature, as it is feared that the evidence could have a very persuasive effect on jurors. The current study assessed the veracity of these beliefs and explored whether this effect is more prominent amongst juries or individual jurors. Individual verdicts were found to differ from group verdicts. Yet both on an individual and a collaborative basis, jurors favoured acquittal when presented with fMRI evidence, compared to other forms of lie detection evidence.

Parent as both perpetrator and victim: Blame and punishment in a case of child neglect.

Hanson, B. L., Terrance, C. A., & Plumm, K. M.

Attributions of responsibility typically increase as outcome severity increases. In defensive attributions, similar others are assigned less responsibility in more severe instances. The current study utilized a child neglect paradigm to explore defensive attributions when the actor may be perceived as both perpetrator and victim. Participants read a newspaper article in which a parent left a child unattended in a hot car, with details based on participants' random assignment to one of four experimental conditions (outcome severity: mild vs severe; actor gender: male vs female). Results failed to support the defensive attribution hypothesis for attributions of controllability, responsibility, and blame. However, group differences based on actor-observer similarity of gender and parenting status were found for empathy, and empathy predicted social punishment.

Optimistic bias and inmates.

Chapin, J., & Pierce, M.

The study sought to extend the optimistic bias literature by documenting the phenomenon among perpetrators of crime. The theory originated from health psychology and is primarily used in health contexts. While a number of recent studies have documented optimistic bias among crime victims, the current study is the first to document the phenomenon among perpetrators. A small-scale survey of county jail inmates incarcerated for drug-related offenses, property-related offenses, and violent offenses (N = 60) found optimistic bias emerged for all three types of offenders. Participants were optimistic about not getting caught for the offense they were currently serving time and even more optimistic about not being incarcerated again in the future. Predictors of optimistic bias included self-esteem, self-efficacy, and marital status. These results suggest the need for different approaches to crime prevention and rehabilitation of inmates.

Using the Theory of Planned Behavior to predict crime reporting intent.

Keller, P. H., & and Miller, M. K.

There is a disparity between the number of crimes committed and number of reports victims file with police, often called the "reporting gap" (Baumer & Lauritsen, 2010). The reporting gap makes it important to understand what influences victims' decisions to report crimes. Previous research has indicated that a variety of factors influence reporting intentions but most research does not rely on a behavioral theory. This research uses the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB; Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980) to predict crime victims' intentions to report their victimizations to police. Using a mock crime scenario and survey questions, this research explored whether the TPB model factors (i.e., victims' attitudes, perceived social norms, and perceived behavioral control (PBC)) predict crime reporting intentions. A second "expanded model" included traditional predictors of reporting (e.g., perceived severity, victim characteristics) in addition to the TPB factors. The TPB model predicted crime reporting intent. The enhanced model did not increase predictive power over the TPB model. The most influential TPB factor was social norms. The strong predictive power of social norms was greater than attitudes, PBC, and even traditional predictors of reporting. This expands the behavior and decision-making contexts in which this model can be used. Knowing what factors (e.g., social norms) predict victim reporting could assist in implementing programs to increase crime reporting and improve policing.

The effects of sex offender stereotypes on potential juror beliefs about conviction, victim blame and perceptions of offender mental stability.

Borhart, H. M., & Plumm, K. M.

The current study sought to investigate the widely held myth that sex offenders are socially isolated with few or no friends and no romantic partners. Vignettes describing a sex offense were presented to the participants in which the level of social support reported was varied (no friends vs. friends vs. fiancee). In addition, whether the offender was previously known to the victim (acquaintance vs. stranger) was varied. Results indicated that participants' beliefs about guilt differed among the defendant's reported level of social support and previous knowledge of the victim. Namely, when the sex offender was described as the most stereotypical sex offender (i.e., a loner assaulting a stranger), participants were less sure of their belief that he should be convicted compared to all other conditions. Additionally, reported level of social support and prior knowledge of the victim influenced participants' judgments of the defendant and the victim. These judgments showed that the participants believed the most stereotypical sex offender (i.e., loner who assaulted a stranger) was most mentally unstable, and the judgments of victim blame increased as the described offender became increasingly disparate from the stereotypical sex offender. Implications within thecourtroom and for future research are discussed.