Mad and/or bad? Jurors' attitudes towards women and men who plead insanity

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McLaughlin, Kendra Jennie




Women are more likely to be perceived as having a mental disorder than men are (McGlynn, Megas, & Benson, 1976). Accordingly, legal decision-makers are more likely to attribute a woman offender's actions to mental illness in comparison to offenders who are men in insanity trials (see Yourstone, Lindholm, & Svenson, 2008). The purpose of this dissertation was to examine mock jury deliberations in a fabricated Not Criminally Responsible on Account of Mental Disorder case. I first examined the impact of defendant gender on jurors' expressions of stereotype content (warmth and competence words) and affect. I used an exhaustive Stereotype Content domain dictionary to guide my directed quantitative content analysis of mock jurors' group deliberations. I used the Linguistic Inquiry Word Count program (LIWC; see Pennebaker, Francis, & Booth, 2001) to comb deliberation transcripts to examine mock jurors' affect towards the defendant (based on the language they used). Second, I examined how juror gender relates to verdict decisions; third, I examined how juror gender relates to speaking roles in deliberations. Fourth, I conducted a thematic analysis of the deliberations and examined how themes related to defendant and juror gender. Overall, these studies did not find significant differences in jurors' use of stereotype content language or affect for men and women defendants. Moreover, I did not find a significant difference in the deliberation styles of women and men jurors. Through the thematic analysis, I found that jurors were generally focused on the mental health status of the defendant and the legitimacy of the NCRMD plea. The present research is of particular importance in Canada, where there is generally no procedural allowance for psycho-legal scholars' questioning of jurors about their social attitudes (e.g., about women) before the trial and about their deliberations after the trial. As such, this dissertation provides a unique and exploratory "inside look" into how prospective jurors' stereotypes and prejudices about the defendant's gender may factor into deliberations in NCRMD trials.


Psychology - Social




Carleton University

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