Skip to main content

When Due Process Is of No Consequence: Moral Mandates and Presumed Defendant Guilt or Innocence

Abstract

Most current theories of justice are focused on how social identity, instrumental concerns, or both shape how people decide whether something is fair or unfair. A neglected consideration is that people may also be concerned with justice because they strive to be authentic moral beings by acting on the basis of values closely tied to their personal identity. We posited that self-expressive moral positions or stands (“moral mandates”) are important determinants of how people reason about fairness. Supporting this notion, we found that (a) people see some trial outcomes in morally mandated terms, e.g., that the guilty must be convicted and punished, and the innocent must not; (b) convicting a defendant believed to be innocent or acquitting a defendant believed to be guilty were seen as unfair, regardless of whether the verdict was achieved by a fair or unfair investigation and trial (Study 1); and (c) a guilty defendant's death was seen as equally fair, and an innocent defendant's death was equally unfair, if it was achieved by a trial that led to the death penalty or by vigilantism (Study 2). Procedural propriety only mattered when defendant guilt was ambiguous.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

REFERENCES

  1. Bandura, A. (1986). Social Foundations of Thought and Action. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Boninger, D. S., Krosnick, J. A., Berent, M. K., and Fabrigar, L.R. (1995). The causes and consequences of attitude importance. In Petty, R. E., and Krosnick, J. A. (eds.), Attitude Strength: Antecedents and Consequences, Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ, pp. 159-190.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Cannon, L. (1999). Official Negligence: How Rodney King and the Riots Change Los Angeles and the LAPD, Westview Press, Boulder, CO.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Cohen, J. (1977). Statistical Power Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences, (rev. edn.). Academic Press, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Converse, P. E. (1964). The nature of belief systems in mass publics. In Apter, D. (ed.), Ideology and Discontent, Free Press, New York, pp. 201-261.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Cropanzano, R., Byre, Z. S., Bobocel, D. R., and Rupp, D. E. (2001). Self-enhancement biases, laboratory experiments, George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and the increasingly crowded world of organizational justice. J. Vocat. Behav. 58: 260-272.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Cropanzano, R., and Greenberg, J. (1997). Progress in organizational justice: Tunneling through the maze. In Cooper, C. L., and Robertson, I. T. (eds.), International Review of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Wiley, New York, pp. 317-372.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Ditto, P. H., and Lopez, D. F. (1992). Motivated skepticism: Use of differential decision criteria for preferred and nonpreferred conclusions. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 63: 568-584.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Edwards, K., and Smith, E. E. (1996). A disconfirmation bias in the evaluation of arguments. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 71: 5-24.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Fiske, S. T., and Taylor, S. E. (1996). Social Cognition, 2nd edn., McGraw-Hill, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Folger, R., and Cropanzano, R. (2001). Fairness theory: Justice as accountability. In Greenberg, J., and Cropanzano, R. (eds.), Advances in Organizational Justice, Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA, pp. 1-55.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Greenberg, J., and Folger, R. (1983). Procedural justice, participation, and the fair process effect in groups and organizations. In Paulus, P. B. (ed.), Basic Group Processes, Springer, New York, pp. 235-256.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Gross, S. R., Holtz, R., and Miller, N. (1995). Attitude certainty. In Petty, R. E., and Krosnick, J. A. (eds.), Attitude Strength: Antecedents and Consequences, Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ, pp. 215-246.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Haidt, J. (2001). The emotional dog and its rational tail:Asocial intuitionist approach to moral judgment. Psychol. Rev. 108: 814-834.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Houston, D., and Fazio, R. (1989). Biased processing as a function of attitude accessibility: Making objective judgments subjectively. Soc. Cognit. 7: 51-66.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Hovland, C. I. (1959). Reconciling conflicting results derived from experimental and survey studies of attitude change. Am. Psychol. 14: 8-17.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Hyman, H. H., and Sheatsley, P. B. (1947). Some reasons why information campaigns fail. Publ. Opin. Q. 11: 412-423.

    Google Scholar 

  18. James, W. (1948/1892). Psychology, World Publishing, Cleveland, OH.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Judd, C. M., and Krosnick, J. A. (1989). The structural bases of consistency among political attitudes: Effects of political expertise and attitude importance. In Pratkanis, A. R., Breckler, S. J., and Greenwald, A. G. (eds.), Attitude Structure and Function, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, pp. 99-128.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Klein, W., and Kunda, Z. (1992). Motivated person perception: Constructing justifications for desired beliefs. J. Exp. Soc. Psychol. 28: 145-168.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Koehler, J. J. (1993). The influence of prior beliefs on scientific judgments of evidence quality. Organ. Behav. Hum. Decis. Process. 556: 28-55.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Krosnick, J. A. (1988). The role of attitude importance in social evaluation: A study of policy preferences, presidential candidate evaluations, and voting behavior. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 55: 196-210.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Kunda, Z. (1987). Motivated inference: Self serving generation and evaluation of causal theories. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 53: 636-647.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Kunda, Z. (1990). The case for motivated reasoning. Psychol. Bull. 108: 480-498.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Lind, E. A., Kulik, C. T., Ambrose, M., and de Vera Park, M. V. (1993). Individual and corporate dispute resolution: Using procedural fairness as a decision heuristic. Adm. Sci. Q. 38: 224-251.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Lind, E. A., and Tyler, T. R. (1988). The Social Psychology of Procedural Justice. Plenum, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Locke, E. A. (1991). The motivations sequence, the motivation hub, and the motivation core. Organ. Behav. Hum. Decis. Process. 50: 288-299.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Lord, C. G., Ross, L., and Lepper, M. R. (1979). Biased assimilation and attitude polarization: The effects of prior theories on subsequently considered evidence. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 37: 2098-2109.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Rokeach, M. (1973). The Nature of Human Values, Free Press, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Ross, L., and Lepper, M. R. (1980). The perseverance of beliefs: Empirical and normative considerations. New Dir. Methodol. Soc. Behav. Sci. 4: 17-36.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Rutte, C. G., and Messick, D. M. (1995). An integrated model of perceived unfairness in organizations. Soc. Justice Res. 8: 239-261.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Skitka, L. J. (in press). Do the means always justify the ends, or do the ends sometimes justify the means? A value protection model of justice. Pers. Soc. Psychol. Bull.

  33. Skitka, L. J., and Bauman, C. (unpublished). Moral conviction, attitude strength, and political choice.

  34. Skitka, L. J., and Mullen, E. (submitted). When procedural fairness fails to account for perceptions of justice done: Moral mandates and the Elián González case.

  35. Steele, C. (1988). The psychology of self-affirmation: Sustaining the integrity of the self. In Berkowitz, L. (ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology. Academic Press, New York, Vol. 21, pp. 261-302.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Taylor, S. E. (1989). Positive Illusions: Creative Self-Deception and the Healthy Mind, Basic Books, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Van den Bos, K., Wilke, H. A. M., Lind, E. A., and Vermunt, R. (1998). Evaluating outcomes by means of the fair process effect: Evidence for different processes in fairness and satisfaction judgments. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 74: 1493-1503.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Linda J. Skitka.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Skitka, L.J., Houston, D.A. When Due Process Is of No Consequence: Moral Mandates and Presumed Defendant Guilt or Innocence. Social Justice Research 14, 305–326 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1014372008257

Download citation

  • moral mandates
  • fairness
  • procedural justice
  • due process
  • attitudes