University of Kentucky

Poster Title

Impact of Number and Type of Stalking Behavior on Perceptions in the Courtroom

Institution

University of Kentucky

Abstract

Every state in the United States has legislation that designates stalking as a criminal behavior, but the specific behaviors that constitute stalking can vary across states. The purpose of the present experiment was to investigate the characteristics of stalking behavior that deem it as criminal in the eyes of community members acting as mock jurors. This experiment investigated mock-juror perceptions of ex-intimate stalking using Kentucky’s anti-stalking legislation. The experiment used a mock-juror methodology, which 195 community members (121 females) recruited through “Mechanical Turk” (an online participant recruitment site) read a stalking trial summary and rendered individual judgments. The two levels for number of stalking incidences were 5 text messages per week or 30 text messages per week. The type of stalking behavior also had two levels, which were stalking through text message or in-person stalking. Three research questions were tested in this experiment. First, it was hypothesized that participant gender would have an effect on trial judgments (e.g., number of guilty verdicts) with women being more provictim (e.g., high guilt ratings) than men. Second, it was hypothesized that an increase in the number of stalking behaviors would increase pro-victim judgments. Finally, it was hypothesized that in-person stalking would increase pro-victim judgments more than stalking through text messaging. The results supported the hypotheses. Women were twice as likely to render guilty verdicts, regardless of condition, than men. In addition, both men and women rendered significantly more guilty verdicts in the 30 stalking incidents condition than in the 5 stalking incidents condition. Finally, there were significantly more guilty verdicts in the in-person condition than in the text message condition. The results of the present experiment may be used to gain a better understanding of the community’s definition of stalking behavior, which could yield more consistent legislation within the United States.

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Impact of Number and Type of Stalking Behavior on Perceptions in the Courtroom

Every state in the United States has legislation that designates stalking as a criminal behavior, but the specific behaviors that constitute stalking can vary across states. The purpose of the present experiment was to investigate the characteristics of stalking behavior that deem it as criminal in the eyes of community members acting as mock jurors. This experiment investigated mock-juror perceptions of ex-intimate stalking using Kentucky’s anti-stalking legislation. The experiment used a mock-juror methodology, which 195 community members (121 females) recruited through “Mechanical Turk” (an online participant recruitment site) read a stalking trial summary and rendered individual judgments. The two levels for number of stalking incidences were 5 text messages per week or 30 text messages per week. The type of stalking behavior also had two levels, which were stalking through text message or in-person stalking. Three research questions were tested in this experiment. First, it was hypothesized that participant gender would have an effect on trial judgments (e.g., number of guilty verdicts) with women being more provictim (e.g., high guilt ratings) than men. Second, it was hypothesized that an increase in the number of stalking behaviors would increase pro-victim judgments. Finally, it was hypothesized that in-person stalking would increase pro-victim judgments more than stalking through text messaging. The results supported the hypotheses. Women were twice as likely to render guilty verdicts, regardless of condition, than men. In addition, both men and women rendered significantly more guilty verdicts in the 30 stalking incidents condition than in the 5 stalking incidents condition. Finally, there were significantly more guilty verdicts in the in-person condition than in the text message condition. The results of the present experiment may be used to gain a better understanding of the community’s definition of stalking behavior, which could yield more consistent legislation within the United States.