Understanding How Undergraduate Students and Seniors Perceive Jury Duty and Child Witnesses
O'Connor, Alison M.
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Seniors represent an important group of potential jurors; however, there is little research examining their perceptions of jury duty and their jury behaviours. The present study examined seniors as jurors to investigate how they respond to calls for jury duty (i.e., their willingness) and whether they are capable jurors in terms of detecting dishonest testimony (i.e., their ability). Specifically, we examined the influence of the senior opt-out law (that allows seniors to opt-out of jury duty) on seniors' perceptions of jury duty, as well as seniors' ability to distinguish between true and false testimonies from child witnesses. An undergraduate sample was used as a comparison group. From responses on a jury duty questionnaire, we found that informing senior participants about the senior opt-out law at the start of the study did not impact their desire to serve on a jury or their perception of their ability to be a juror. The majority of seniors responded that they would want to serve on a jury if given the opportunity. Further, seniors showed a significantly lower rate of agreement with the senior opt-out law compared to undergraduates. To assess juror perceptions of child witnesses, participants watched a series of eight child interview videos (four truth-tellers and four lie-tellers) and provided credibility assessments and lie-detection judgments. Results indicated that for both truth and lie-tellers, seniors provided significantly higher evaluations of children’s competence to testify, overall credibility, honesty, believability, and likeability compared to undergraduates. Although both groups were significantly above chance at detecting lies, seniors were significantly less accurate, were significantly more biased to trust children, and were significantly more confident in these decisions compared to undergraduates. Lastly, participants’ perceptions of their ability to serve as a juror was not related to subsequent lie-detection judgments. Results highlight the importance of continuing to incorporate seniors in the judicial system.