Research Proposal in Psychology and Law

How the self-confidence of one person among jurors can influence a group decision

Decisions taken by the jury play a determinant role in the trial. In such a situation, it is extremely important to understand that can influence the jury’s decision. In this respect, the role of an individual juror is often underestimated, while, in actuality, it is possible to presuppose that the self-confidence of one person among jurors can influence the decision taken by the entire jury board.  To put it more precisely, it is necessary to focus on the process of the group decision making in order to identify whether one of the jurors can influence the position of other jurors and the extent of this influence. Furthermore, it is necessary to find out whether the self-esteem plays a significant part in the process of decision making and whether the high self-esteem can influence jurors with lower self-esteem. In addition, it is necessary to find out the position of professionals working in judicial system, for instance, judges, solicitors, etc. as well as psychologists in order to learn their attitude to and assessment of the process of decision making by the jurors.

At the same time, the analysis of the literature dedicated to the problem of decision making, including decision making in the judicial system from both psychological and legal point of view is of the utmost importance. At this point, it is possible to refer to the article by Braithwaite John, “Not Just Deserts. A Republican Theory of Criminal Justice”, where the author explores the process of decision making by juries in the contemporary judicial system, which helps better understand legal aspects of the work of the jury and decision making. Cadoret’s article, “The Developmental Interface Between Nature and Nurture: A Mutual Influence of Child Antisocial Behavior and Parent

Behavior”, reveals the role of the formation of an individual under the impact of his family in his behavior that helps to reveal basic norms of behavior which can influence decision making by the jury. The article by Johnson-Pynn, Fragaszy and Cummins-Sebree, “Common territories in comparative and developmental psychology: The quest for shared means and meaning in behavioral investigations”, focuses on the possibilities of sharing meaning by individuals in the process of interaction. Klein in his article “Multiplying the problems of intelligence by eight: A critique of Gardner’s theory” discusses the existing models of thinking which can be applied to the analysis of the jurors’ decision making since through understanding their way of thinking it is possible to understand how they take decisions. Finally, the article by Yuan and Shaw, “Induction of fuzzy decision trees”, reveals the essence of the process of decision making.


The subjects of the research should be either actual or potential jurors. It is necessary to select a group of subjects-jurors consisting of the equal number of males and females, of different age. However, before the selection of group members it is necessary to conduct psychological test to assess their self-esteem in order to place at least one individual with high self-esteem in each group.

The materials needed for the test include: the self-esteem test, Sorensen Self-Esteem test, literature dedicated to the problem being under research, recording equipment that can be used during interviews of the subjects and professionals working in the judicial system and psychologists, access to court records to analyze decision taken by juries.

The procedure of the research includes the selection of the subjects, their testing and application of research methods, i.e. interview and observation. The selection of the subjects should be focused on the inclusion of equal number of males and females of different age and socio-cultural background. The subjects should be tested to define their self-esteem and the “jury” should be selected among subjects who have high and low self-esteem.

Interviews are traditionally considered to be a very effective tool to establish the personal contact with the subject. This fact is very important in the assessment of subject’s experience because a researcher needs to understand his subject and, what is more important, a researcher needs to make his subject trust him and be confident not only in the competence of the researcher but also in his real ability to help the subject. In such a way, the establishment of a personal contact may be viewed as one of the first goals a researcher is supposed to achieve through the use of interview. In relation to the subject’s experience, it should be said that the growing trust of the subject is an essential condition for receiving objective or, to put it more precisely, truthful information about the subject’s experience. Otherwise, if a researcher fails to establish a personal contact and make his subject confident and trustful, it is highly probable that he will fail to assess the subject’s experience adequately because of the lack of truthfulness of the information he receives from the subject.

Furthermore, interviews provide researchers with an opportunity to receive very important information about the problems of the subject. To put it more precisely, a researcher by means of interviews learn whether a subject is able to understand that he has some problems and what kind of problems he actually has. At the same time, it is important to underline that interviews increase the opportunity to uncover the actual problems of the subject, which may be quite different from those the subject thinks he has. It may be found out on the basis of information concerning the past of the subject, his self-assessment, internal inclinations and interests of the subject, etc. In such a way, it is possible to identify the major problems of the subject. At the same time, the subject, when he/she is interviewed, gets more concentrated on his/her own internal world, his/her problems, anxieties, feelings and emotions, etc. As a result, the subject can better understand his/her own needs and problems during interviews.

Finally, interviews help a researcher to receive a lot of information concerning the subject, but it is necessary to remember that all this information is often highly subjective and basically this information reveals the current state of the subject, his/her particular vision of him/herself and the surrounding world, his/her problems, etc. but this information does not have any objective basis. In other words, interviews represent just the ideas and thoughts or simply responses of the subject which a researcher needs to carefully analyze and understand the extent to which the statements and information received from the subject is trustworthy. Nevertheless, interviews help better understand the past experience of the subject. For instance, it is possible to compare information received from interviews to information in case history. Or else, the unwillingness of a subject to speak about some events in the past or simply raise certain themes in interviews may be indicators of serious problems the subject had in the past or which affect him/her even at the moment of interview.

In such a way, a researcher can understand the internal world and experience of each subject and then the researcher can assess the extent to which each subject is susceptible to the influence of other jurors. During the interview, subjects can answer questions to define whether the position of other members of the test group is important for them and the extent to which their position is important.

On analyzing the possible use and potential of observation in the process of the assessment of the subject’s experience, it is necessary to point out that observations may be applied during all the time a researcher communicates with a subject, including interviews. In fact, each individual has two signal systems. On the one hand, there is language or speech by means of which a subject may express his ideas, thoughts, feelings and emotions and basically this signal system is very subjective. On the other hand, there is secondary signal system which actually should be the subject of observations. This system includes gestures, mimics, and various body movements, i.e. non-verbal means of communication. Many specialists underline that the secondary signal system is more objective in the assessment of the actual subject’s state, thoughts and emotions and, therefore, the observation could be used to receive objective information about the subject judging from the body language. In a way, observations may be viewed as a different kind of interviews, which involve not verbal but body language.

Through the analysis of body language it will be possible to define whether individuals with higher self-esteem can influence subjects with lower self-esteem. At the same time, observation helps better understand relationships that are established in the group in the process of communication and decision making.

On the basis of the findings, it is possible to make conclusions whether the position of people with lower self-esteem could have been influenced by people with higher self-esteem or not. But, in addition, it is necessary to interview professionals working in judicial system and psychologists in order to find out whether the jury can be influenced from outside and, to what extent and an individual within the group, even with a high self-esteem, can influence the entire group.


Basically, the research is supposed to answer the main question of the study: whether a juror with high self-esteem can influence the decision made by the entire group. In this respect, it should be said that the outcomes of the research can be potentially reliable because the research implies external validation, which can be done by psychologists interviewed during the research. In such a way, they can give their personal opinion on the possibility of the influence of a juror with high self-esteem on the group decision making. At the same time, the analysis of data collected in the result of interviews of subjects and observation can provide ample information on the relationships within the group. For instance, it will be possible to define whether there was a leader in the group, which, in all probability, should be an individual or individuals with high self-esteem, and outsiders, subjects with low self-esteem who are supposed to be the most susceptible to the influence of subjects with the high self-esteem. At the same time, the analysis of models of decision making applied by the group can reveal the essence of the process of decision making and whether it was influenced by either member of the group or not.

Potentially, the findings of the research can be very interesting and useful for the further study because, at the moment, the problem of decision making by jurors and the possibility of the influence of one juror on the rest of the jury is apparently under-researched. Therefore, it would be logical to extend the research in the future and, instead of a test group of subject, to study the real juries which are taking decision in trials. The current research can reveal the basic mechanisms of decision making in the jury and factors, namely self-esteem, that can influence this process in the group. Consequently, on the basis of this model it will be possible to conduct further researches.

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