University of New Hampshire
Mentor: Dr. Ellen Cohn, Department of Psychology
The Effect of Racial Bias on Witness Credibility and Juror Decision-Making
Racial bias is a big problem in the United States criminal justice system, especially in the courts. Researchers who have examined the role of racial bias in courts have focused predominately on prejudices against African-American defendants and have ignored Hispanic participants in the criminal process. In addition, eyewitness testimony researchers have focused on laypeople and ignored police officers who may be eyewitnesses. The current study examines the effect of participant racial bias and police eyewitness race/ethnicity on perceived witness credibility and juror decision-making. We are hypothesizing that 1.) The race/ethnicity of the police eye witness will affect juror decision making and witness credibility, 2.) High levels of police legitimacy will be positively correlated with witness credibility, resulting in more guilty verdicts, and 3.) High levels of racial bias will be negatively correlated with witness credibility, resulting in more not-guilty verdicts. Participants will be listening to one of three audio recordings of a mock trial involving a robbery in a convenience store. Police legitimacy, racial bias, witness credibility, and juror decision making will be measured. The findings will have implications for necessary changes in the criminal justice system.