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Psychology & LawIn addition to research on race and legal judgment, we are also interested more generally in the intersection of psychology and the law. This a growing discipline in large part because of the allure of applying psychology to the topics of practical importance. But the legal system is an ideal domain for testing and extending many of the theoretical issues of interest to social psychologists. Juror judgments provide an engaging and realistic means for examining person perception, the jury is an ideal vehicle for studying group processes, and much of what we know about the malleability of human memory derives from investigations of eyewitness testimony.
Some of our early research in psychology and law focused on extralegal influences on juror decision-making, such as inadmissible evidence and pre-trial publicity. These are areas in which we continue to have interest. More recently, we have begun projects examining the factors that influence people's evaluations of alibis—a critical issue in the attempt to better understand and prevent wrongful convictions—as well as the cross-race bias in eyewitness identification. One of the most exciting aspects of psycholegal research is that every year seems to produce a new "Case of the Century" and the emergence of new legal issues in need of empirical examination.
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Publications:Apfelbaum, E. P., Sommers, S. R. (2013). Law and diversity: The legal-behavioral science divide in how to define, assess, and counteract bias. In Q. Roberson (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of Diversity (pp. 442-457). Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK.
O'Brien, B., Sommers, S. R., & Ellsworth, P. C. (2011). Ask and what shall ye receive? A guide for using and interpreting what jurors tell us. Journal of Law and Social Change, 14, 201-232.
Sommers, S. R., & Kassin, S. M. (2001). On the many impacts of inadmissible testimony: Selective compliance, need for cognition, and the overcorrection bias. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, 1368-1377. View pdf
Fein, S., Morgan, S. J., Norton, M. I., & Sommers, S. R. (1997). Hype and suspicion: Effects of pretrial publicity, race, and suspicion on jurors' verdicts. Journal of Social Issues, 53, 487-502. View pdf
Kassin, S. M., & Sommers, S. R. (1997). Inadmissible testimony, instructions to disregard, and the jury: Substantive versus procedural considerations. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23, 1046-1054. View pdf
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