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The Influence of Familiarity Recency and Eyewitness Age on Mock Jurors’ Judgement

  • Lauren E Thompson
  • Chelsea Sheahan
  • Emily Pica
  • Joanna Pozzulo
Article

Abstract

The majority of research examining factors that influence jurors where the sole evidence is eyewitness identification focuses on stranger identifications where the eyewitness has never encountered the perpetrator before. However, it also is important to understand how familiarity between the eyewitness and perpetrator may be influential as familiarity is prevalent in criminal cases. Therefore, the current study examined the influence of familiarity recency (i.e., how long ago the eyewitness knew the defendant as a former neighbor 1, 5, or 10 years ago) and age of the eyewitness (25, 50, or 75 years old) on mock jurors’ decision-making. Mock jurors (N = 326) read a trial transcript involving a positive identification from an eyewitness. Neither familiarity recency nor eyewitness age influenced mock jurors’ perceptions of the defendant or eyewitness, or verdict decisions. However, mock jurors’ subjective ratings regarding the familiarity between the eyewitness and defendant were highly associated with mock jurors’ perceptions and verdict decisions. Specifically, higher familiarity ratings were associated with more guilty verdicts, higher guilt ratings, more positive perceptions of the eyewitness, and more negative perceptions of the defendant. This is an important finding as it demonstrates that jurors’ personal perceptions of familiarity are highly influential in familiar eyewitness cases.

Keywords

Familiarity Eyewitness age Elderly witness Juror decision-making 

Notes

Funding

No funding information available for this project.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Copyright information

© Society for Police and Criminal Psychology 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada
  3. 3.Department of Psychological Science and CounsellingAustin Peay State UniversityClarksvilleUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada

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