The ‘science’ of jury selection


Via The Situationist Blog: Psychology Today has a lengthy article by news editor Matthew Hutson on the psychology of jury selection.

There’s some interesting stuff in here, on the history of jury selection, the science (and lack of it) of jury selection and some commentary on whether ‘scientific jury selection’ actually works. According to the article, although jury consultants come from various different disciplines – including, apparently, theatre – the largest participation in this industry is from psychologists.

Here’s an extract, but the whole article is well worth reading – and freely available:

Jury consulting has become a big business over the past three decades. Hundreds of firms now rake in several hundred million dollars a year. Many offer “scientific jury selection” services, deploying demographics, statistics, and social psychology to cull potential jurors and engineer the perfect panel of people. […] Despite all the money and research poured into predicting and shaping jury decisions, to a large degree the state of the art remains just that: art.

Does scientific jury selection even work? Real-world success rates are impossible to measure. A true controlled study would require two parallel juries, one selected at random, one professionally culled. Demographics and personality indicators improve the ability to predict a juror’s decision only by 10 to 15 percent on average. So conclude psychologists Joel Lieberman and Bruce Sales from a literature review in their 2006 book Scientific Jury Selection, the only academic volume dedicated to the subject. In another review of studies, Howard University’s Seltzer found that information gleaned from juror surveys could account for only 10 to 26 percent of their behavior.

Read more about jury research on the CrimePsych Blog here.

Photo credit: chenjack, Creative Commons license.