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Title: Juror Scientific Reasoning Skills and Discussion of Scientific Evidence During Deliberation
Abstract We investigate the link between individual differences in science reasoning skills and mock jurors’ deliberation behavior; specifically, how much they talk about the scientific evidence presented in a complicated, ecologically valid case during deliberation. Consistent with our preregistered hypothesis, mock jurors strong in scientific reasoning discussed the scientific evidence more during deliberation than those with weaker science reasoning skills. Summary With increasing frequency, legal disputes involve complex scientific information (Faigman et al., 2014; Federal Judicial Center, 2011; National Research Council, 2009). Yet people often have trouble consuming scientific information effectively (McAuliff et al., 2009; National Science Board, 2014; Resnick et al., 2016). Individual differences in reasoning styles and skills can affect how people comprehend complex evidence (e.g., Hans, Kaye, Dann, Farley, Alberston, 2011; McAuliff & Kovera, 2008). Recently, scholars have highlighted the importance of studying group deliberation contexts as well as individual decision contexts (Salerno & Diamond, 2010; Kovera, 2017). If individual differences influence how jurors understand scientific evidence, it invites questions about how these individual differences may affect the way jurors discuss science during group deliberations. The purpose of the current study was to examine how individual differences in the way people process scientific information affects the extent to which jurors more » discuss scientific evidence during deliberations. Methods We preregistered the data collection plan, sample size, and hypotheses on the Open Science Framework. Jury-eligible community participants (303 jurors across 50 juries) from Phoenix, AZ (Mage=37.4, SD=16.9; 58.8% female; 51.5% White, 23.7% Latinx, 9.9% African-American, 4.3% Asian) were paid $55 for a 3-hour mock jury study. Participants completed a set of individual questionnaires related to science reasoning skills and attitudes toward science prior to watching a 45-minute mock armed-robbery trial. The trial included various pieces of evidence and testimony, including forensic experts testifying about mitochondrial DNA evidence (mtDNA; based on Hans et al. 2011 materials). Participants were then given 45 minutes to deliberate. The deliberations were video recorded and transcribed to text for analysis. We analyzed the deliberation content for discussions related to the scientific evidence presented during trial. We hypothesized that those with stronger scientific and numeric reasoning skills, higher need for cognition, and more positive views towards science would discuss scientific evidence more than their counterparts during deliberation. Measures We measured Attitudes Toward Science (ATS) with indices of scientific promise and scientific reservations (Hans et al., 2011; originally developed by the National Science Board, 2004; 2006). We used Drummond and Fischhoff’s (2015) Scientific Reasoning Scale (SRS) to measure scientific reasoning skills. Weller et al.’s (2012) Numeracy Scale (WNS) measured proficiency in reasoning with quantitative information. The NFC-Short Form (Cacioppo et al., 1984) measured need for cognition. Coding We identified verbal utterances related to the scientific evidence presented in court. For instance, references to DNA evidence in general (e.g. nuclear DNA being more conclusive than mtDNA), the database that was used to compare the DNA sample (e.g. the database size, how representative it was), exclusion rates (e.g. how many other people could not be excluded as a possible match), and the forensic DNA experts (e.g. how credible they were perceived). We used word count to operationalize the extent to which each juror discussed scientific information. First we calculated the total word count for each complete jury deliberation transcript. Based on the above coding scheme we determined the number of words each juror spent discussing scientific information. To compare across juries, we wanted to account for the differing length of deliberation; thus, we calculated each juror’s scientific deliberation word count as a proportion of their jury’s total word count. Results On average, jurors discussed the science for about 4% of their total deliberation (SD=4%, range 0-22%). We regressed proportion of the deliberation jurors spend discussing scientific information on the four individual difference measures (i.e., SRS, NFC, WNS, ATS). Using the adjusted R-squared, the measures significantly accounted for 5.5% of the variability in scientific information deliberation discussion, SE=0.04, F(4, 199)=3.93, p=0.004. When controlling for all other variables in the model, the Scientific Reasoning Scale was the only measure that remained significant, b=0.003, SE=0.001, t(203)=2.02, p=0.045. To analyze how much variability each measure accounted for, we performed a stepwise regression, with NFC entered at step 1, ATS entered at step 2, WNS entered at step 3, and SRS entered at step 4. At step 1, NFC accounted for 2.4% of the variability, F(1, 202)=5.95, p=0.02. At step 2, ATS did not significantly account for any additional variability. At step 3, WNS accounted for an additional 2.4% of variability, ΔF(1, 200)=5.02, p=0.03. Finally, at step 4, SRS significantly accounted for an additional 1.9% of variability in scientific information discussion, ΔF(1, 199)=4.06, p=0.045, total adjusted R-squared of 0.055. Discussion This study provides additional support for previous findings that scientific reasoning skills affect the way jurors comprehend and use scientific evidence. It expands on previous findings by suggesting that these individual differences also impact the way scientific evidence is discussed during juror deliberations. In addition, this study advances the literature by identifying Scientific Reasoning Skills as a potentially more robust explanatory individual differences variable than more well-studied constructs like Need for Cognition in jury research. Our next steps for this research, which we plan to present at AP-LS as part of this presentation, incudes further analysis of the deliberation content (e.g., not just the mention of, but the accuracy of the references to scientific evidence in discussion). We are currently coding this data with a software program called Noldus Observer XT, which will allow us to present more sophisticated results from this data during the presentation. Learning Objective: Participants will be able to describe how individual differences in scientific reasoning skills affect how much jurors discuss scientific evidence during deliberation. « less
Authors:
Award ID(s):
1733961
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10192447
Journal Name:
Annual Conference of the American Psychology-Law Society.
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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Some argue notes may serve as a memory aid, increase juror confidence during deliberation, and help jurors engage in the trial (Hannaford & Munsterman, 2001; Heuer & Penrod, 1988, 1994). Others argue notetaking may distract jurors from listening to evidence, that juror notes may be given undue weight, and that those who took notes may dictate the deliberation process (Dann, Hans, & Kaye, 2005). While research has evaluated the efficacy of juror notes on evidence comprehension, little work has explored the specific content of juror notes. In a similar project on which we build, Dann, Hans, and Kaye (2005) found jurors took on average 270 words of notes each with 85% including references to jury instructions in their notes. In the present study we use a content analysis approach to examine how jurors take notes about simple and complex evidence. We were particularly interested in how jurors captured gist and specific (verbatim) information in their notes as they have different implications for information recall during deliberation. According to Fuzzy Trace Theory (Reyna & Brainerd, 1995), people extract “gist” or qualitative meaning from information, and also exact, verbatim representations. Although both are important for helping people make well-informed judgments, gist-based understandings are purported to be even more important than verbatim understanding (Reyna, 2008; Reyna & Brainer, 2007). As such, it could be useful to examine how laypeople represent information in their notes during deliberation of evidence. Methods Prior to watching a 45-minute mock bank robbery trial, jurors were given a pen and notepad and instructed they were permitted to take notes. The evidence included testimony from the defendant, witnesses, and expert witnesses from prosecution and defense. Expert testimony described complex mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) evidence. The present analysis consists of pilot data representing 2,733 lines of notes from 52 randomly-selected jurors across 41 mock juries. Our final sample for presentation at AP-LS will consist of all 391 juror notes in our dataset. Based on previous research exploring jury note taking as well as our specific interest in gist vs. specific encoding of information, we developed a coding guide to quantify juror note-taking behaviors. Four researchers independently coded a subset of notes. Coders achieved acceptable interrater reliability [(Cronbach’s Alpha = .80-.92) on all variables across 20% of cases]. Prior to AP-LS, we will link juror notes with how they discuss scientific and non-scientific evidence during jury deliberation. Coding Note length. Before coding for content, coders counted lines of text. Each notepad line with at minimum one complete word was coded as a line of text. Gist information vs. Specific information. Any line referencing evidence was coded as gist or specific. We coded gist information as information that did not contain any specific details but summarized the meaning of the evidence (e.g., “bad, not many people excluded”). Specific information was coded as such if it contained a verbatim descriptive (e.g.,“<1 of people could be excluded”). We further coded whether this information was related to non-scientific evidence or related to the scientific DNA evidence. Mentions of DNA Evidence vs. Other Evidence. We were specifically interested in whether jurors mentioned the DNA evidence and how they captured complex evidence. When DNA evidence was mention we coded the content of the DNA reference. Mentions of the characteristics of mtDNA vs nDNA, the DNA match process or who could be excluded, heteroplasmy, references to database size, and other references were coded. Reliability. When referencing DNA evidence, we were interested in whether jurors mentioned the evidence reliability. Any specific mention of reliability of DNA evidence was noted (e.g., “MT DNA is not as powerful, more prone to error”). Expert Qualification. Finally, we were interested in whether jurors noted an expert’s qualifications. All references were coded (e.g., “Forensic analyst”). Results On average, jurors took 53 lines of notes (range: 3-137 lines). Most (83%) mentioned jury instructions before moving on to case specific information. The majority of references to evidence were gist references (54%) focusing on non-scientific evidence and scientific expert testimony equally (50%). When jurors encoded information using specific references (46%), they referenced non-scientific evidence and expert testimony equally as well (50%). Thirty-three percent of lines were devoted to expert testimony with every juror including at least one line. References to the DNA evidence were usually focused on who could be excluded from the FBIs database (43%), followed by references to differences between mtDNA vs nDNA (30%), and mentions of the size of the database (11%). Less frequently, references to DNA evidence focused on heteroplasmy (5%). Of those references that did not fit into a coding category (11%), most focused on the DNA extraction process, general information about DNA, and the uniqueness of DNA. We further coded references to DNA reliability (15%) as well as references to specific statistical information (14%). Finally, 40% of jurors made reference to an expert’s qualifications. Conclusion Jury note content analysis can reveal important information about how jurors capture trial information (e.g., gist vs verbatim), what evidence they consider important, and what they consider relevant and irrelevant. In our case, it appeared jurors largely created gist representations of information that focused equally on non-scientific evidence and scientific expert testimony. This finding suggests note taking may serve not only to represent information verbatim, but also and perhaps mostly as a general memory aid summarizing the meaning of evidence. Further, jurors’ references to evidence tended to be equally focused on the non-scientific evidence and the scientifically complex DNA evidence. This observation suggests jurors may attend just as much to non-scientific evidence as they to do complex scientific evidence in cases involving complicated evidence – an observation that might inform future work on understanding how jurors interpret evidence in cases with complex information. Learning objective: Participants will be able to describe emerging evidence about how jurors take notes during trial.« less
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