Dr. Diez, Clinical Psychologist, New York City



Monograph | Gulity or Not guilty? Guilty or Not Guilty? The Impact of Ideology and Need for Closure in Jury Decision-making. VDM Publishing, Germany, in press, September 2009
Copyright © 2009 by Claudia Diez and VDM Verlag Dr. Muller Aktiengesellschaft & Co. KG

For most
of the year 2004, the U.S. media and the American public were captivated by what was called the first major criminal trial of this century. Scott Peterson, a fertilizer salesman in Modesto, California, had been accused of murdering his wife and his unborn son on Christmas Eve of 2002.

What was most peculiar about this trial was the absence of hard evidence directly incriminating the defendant: no murder scene, no eyewitness, no weapon, no "smoking gun". For months, legal analysts foretold the defeat of the prosecution team. As the trial unfolded, so did my questions about the decision-making process in which those jurors had partaken.

People’s judgments and decision-making processes are not always best understood by the rules of formal logic, possibly even less so when the available evidence is scarce. Under which circumstances would a juror be inclined to convict a defendant based merely on circumstantial evidence? How does a jury find a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt when the evidence presented is circumstantial or weak? Are there specific individual differences swaying jurors toward certain verdicts in the absence of evidentiary clarity?  Could poitical ideology impact a juror's view of evidence, or lack thereof? Could our fellow liberals Americans, with their humanitarian and sympathetic views, be any more prone to conviction than their "tough on crime" conservative counterparts?

But then again, what exactly is "need for closure"? Do we know if, or how, it affects jurors' verdicts?

In this monograph I review briefly the empirical literature on jury decision-making, I explain the construct of "cognitive need for closure" and its underlying theory of "Social Epistemics" (A. Kruglanski,1989), and finally I present the description and results of an experimental study of the interplay among need for closure, ideology and verdict.

Available from Amazon.com, September 2009. All rights reserved.

The content of this page is Copyright © 2009 by Claudia Diez and VDM Verlag Dr. Muller Aktiengesellschaft & Co. KG.

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Last updated on June 2010 | New York City