Gender, Emotion and Courtroom DecisionsPublic
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Victim impact statements (VIS) have been controversial due to their emotional nature and how they may influence jury decision-making. Previous research has shown that highly emotional content in VIS increases the chance of a harsher sentence afforded to the defendant in criminal cases (Nadler & Rose, 2003). Research also shows that the gender of the victim and juror play a role in sentencing decisions (Holcomb et al., 2004; Williams et al., 2007; Pozzulo, et al., 2010). This study seeks to expand upon the literature by examining how the emotional content of victim impacts statements as well as the gender of the victim and mock juror influence civil court cases regarding personal injury. A total of 164 participants were included in the analysis and they all read a personal injury case with a plaintiff being either male or female as well as read a VIS which was categorized as either high or low in emotion. They answered questions on how much money in damage amounts they would award to the plaintiff followed by their perceptions of the plaintiff, defendant and the incident. Contrary to past research, we found that emotionality of the VIS, plaintiff gender and gender of the participant had no effect on damage amounts awarded to the plaintiff. This prompts for further investigation for VIS in civil cases to see if other factors such as the type of injury or race of the plaintiff and juror influence damage amounts.
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