Poster Title

The Bias of Illusory Bias: Legal Judgments and Estimates of Legal Judgments

Institution

Northern Kentucky University

Abstract

The goal of this research was to investigate legal judgments and what people think about legal judgments. One-hundred-sixty-eight participants read a scenario about a 35-year-old male African-American or Caucasian target convicted of assault, embezzlement, or negligent homicide. Participants indicated the number of years in prison that the target should receive and made several other judgments. Participants also indicated how most people would answer these questions. No ethnic biases in sentencing decisions were found for any crime. However, differences were found in participants' estimates of the sentences that most people would recommend. For both assault and embezzlement, significant interactions were found. Participants estimated that the Caucasian target would receive a more lenient sentence than what was actually given, and that the African-American target would receive a more severe sentence than what was actually given. For negligent homicide, only a main effect was obtained such that estimates were more lenient than the sentences targets actually received. Effects for the number of years that the target should be in prison before being considered for parole were similar. No significant biases with regard to the target's ethnicity were found. However, participants' estimates revealed effects similar to those for sentencing. Although no actual biases with regard to the target's ethnicity were obtained in the current investigation, such biases can occur. However, the current results suggest that participants can also see biases where none actually exist.

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The Bias of Illusory Bias: Legal Judgments and Estimates of Legal Judgments

The goal of this research was to investigate legal judgments and what people think about legal judgments. One-hundred-sixty-eight participants read a scenario about a 35-year-old male African-American or Caucasian target convicted of assault, embezzlement, or negligent homicide. Participants indicated the number of years in prison that the target should receive and made several other judgments. Participants also indicated how most people would answer these questions. No ethnic biases in sentencing decisions were found for any crime. However, differences were found in participants' estimates of the sentences that most people would recommend. For both assault and embezzlement, significant interactions were found. Participants estimated that the Caucasian target would receive a more lenient sentence than what was actually given, and that the African-American target would receive a more severe sentence than what was actually given. For negligent homicide, only a main effect was obtained such that estimates were more lenient than the sentences targets actually received. Effects for the number of years that the target should be in prison before being considered for parole were similar. No significant biases with regard to the target's ethnicity were found. However, participants' estimates revealed effects similar to those for sentencing. Although no actual biases with regard to the target's ethnicity were obtained in the current investigation, such biases can occur. However, the current results suggest that participants can also see biases where none actually exist.