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Timing and Type of Pretrial Publicity Affect Mock-Jurors' Decisions and Predecisional Distortion

Christine L. Ruva, Jessica L. Mayes, Mary C. Dickman, Cathy McEvoy
2012 International Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences  
This experiment ad ministered pretrial publicity (PTP) using a spaced procedure in which mock-jurors were exposed to eight PTP stories over a period of 10 to 12 days prior to viewing a mu rder trial and making verdict decisions. The type of PTP varied, with mock-jurors in the pure PTP conditions receiv ing only one type of PTP (negative only or positive only) and those in the mixed conditions receiving both negative and positive PTP. Jurors in the mixed conditions either received PTP in an
more » ... ived PTP in an alternating fashion (e.g., negative, positive, negative, positive) or a blocked fashion (e.g., negative, negative, positive, positive). The spacing of PTP and the mixed PTP exposure allo wed us to examine recency and primacy effects associated with PTP exposure, as well as predecisional distortion during PTP exposure. PTP exposure resulted in recency effects for mock-ju rors' choice of current case leader wh ile reading the PTP stories. Primacy effects were found for mean d istortion scores measured during PTP exposure and for verdicts. Although jurors in our mixed PTP conditions received the same positive and negative PTP stories, they significantly differed on mean distortion scores and verdicts as a function of the timing/order of these stories. fashion (e.g., negative, negative, positive, positive); with half o f the jurors receiving a positive story first and half receiving negative story first (see Appendix A). The spacing of PTP and the mixed PTP exposure allowed us to examine how PTP presentation order affected ju rors' decisions (recency and primacy effects) and predecisional distortion during both PTP and trial exposure. Recency and Pri macy Effects Shaffer discusses concern about the impact of "continued coverage of a case" and states that there are two lines of thought as to how more recent PTP may impact attitudes that were developed from earlier media coverage [9] . First, there may be a cu mulative effect of PTP on attitudes. DeLuca found that mock jurors exposed to three negative pieces of information about the defendant were more likely to render guilty verdicts than jurors exposed to only one or two pieces of info rmation [10] . Similarly, Shaffer found that the number of PTP art icles appearing in a newspaper as well as respondents' estimates of their amount of PTP exposure were pred ictors of guilt [9] . These findings suggest that as the quantity of PTP increases so does its biasing effect on decisions. The second line of thought as to how more recent PTP may impact early attitudes is that this later coverage may be given less attention, and therefore the first PTP articles would have the greatest impact on attitudes and decisions (primacy effect). The attention decrement hypothesis suggests, once impressions become crystallized new information will be viewed as unneeded and hence
doi:10.5923/j.ijpbs.20120204.06 fatcat:xvwodfp4dfgb5mchfsupyhpyli