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Volume 10 Issue 1

Evaluating evidence of childhood abuse as a function of expert testimony, judge's instructions and sentence recommendation

Platania, J., & Konstantopoulou, F.

In the current study we examined how jurors utilize evidence of childhood abuse as a function of expert testimony and sentence recommendation. We also varied the specificity of instructional language in the context of mitigating circumstances. We predicted jurors who impose a life sentence would rate evidence of childhood abuse as significantly more important in determining sentence compared to jurors who impose the death penalty. Furthermore, we expected this effect to be moderated by expert testimony. Testimony of childhood abuse increased importance ratings of non-statutory mitigating circumstances. This effect was more evident for jurors who imposed a life sentence compared to those who imposed the death penalty. In addition, specific instructional language influenced how jurors considered circumstances related to the defendant's life.

MMPI-2 characteristics of male serial murderers

Culhane, S. E., Hildebrand, M. M.. Walker, S., & Gray, M. J.

The current research reports 61 male serial homicide offenders' Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory - 2 (MMPI-2) results. Offenders had an average MMPI-2 profile code of 4-6-8. They also scored high on the Harris-Lingoes scales of Authority Problems, Persecutory Ideas, and Emotional Alienation. Megargee classifications were fairly divided, but Delta was the largest grouping. A hierarchical cluster analysis of MMPI-2 profiles revealed two distinct profiles, one disturbed and one non-disturbed. The disturbed cluster showed numerous elevations on the clinical scales, while the non-disturbed cluster only had an elevation on Psychopathic Deviance. There were several differences in content and supplementary scales measurements for the two clusters. The MMPI-2 basic scales were limited in the prediction of offender's murderous behavior. This project shows the average serial murderer has a typical MMPI-2 pattern and one indicative of emotional disorders. However, the murderers remain diverse in their individual psychopathologies. Implications and limitations of the research are discussed.

The effects of attributions for crime on attitudes toward prison reform

O'Toole, M. J., & Sahar, G.

Early attribution research suggests that those who view criminal acts as highly internal, controllable, and stable tend to support more severe and retributive punishment. This study aims to further examine how laypeople's attributions for crime relate to their perceptions of responsibility, emotions, punishment goals, and prison reform attitudes. Participants completed surveys with one of five criminal conviction scenarios. Correlational analyses and a path model provided support for links between internal and controllable attributions, high levels of anger and blame, retributive punishment purposes, and judgments against reform funding. Those with higher prison system knowledge and the politically liberal agreed more that prison system change is necessary. The potential use of these data for prison reform activists is considered.

An investigation of accuracy and bias in cross-cultural lie detection

Castillo, P. A., Tyson, G., & Mallard, D.

The detection of deception has been relatively unexplored from a cross-cultural standpoint. In such context, the observers and communicators may have different cultural norms and expectations of behavior. These differences may create the potential for bias and errors. To investigate this, 71 Australian students (20 males and 51 females), with a mean age of 21.3 years (SD = 5.98), were asked to make credibility judgments of 24 video clips in which culture and language use (first vs second) were manipulated. It was found that participants were generally poor not only at classifying lies and truths within cultures, but also across cultures. Although the results indicated that the language spoken had no impact on observers' ability to discriminate between lies and truths, observers were generally more suspicious of Colombian clips and, in particular, of those that depicted Colombians speaking in a second language. Practical and theoretical implications are discussed.