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Creating and Validating a Simplified Measure of Religiosity and Examining the Effects of Religion on Jury Verdicts

Christopher D Kimbrough, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Appellate court opinions widely vary in their assessment of the influence of religious arguments by jurors, with the majority of court opinions ruling that although religious arguments are improper and impermissible, they are not prejudicial and amount to harmless error. Because these decisions were based on legal precedent and anecdotes rather than empirical evidence, I attempted to address critical gaps in the domains of religion’s role in jury decision-making research, as well as the psychology of religion in general, across five experiments.With Experiment 1, I conducted a reliability generalization and induction analysis of three of the most commonly used measures of religiosity in psychology, as well as three scales commonly used to validate those measures. Because of the inconsistency in reliability estimate reporting, confirmation of the reliability of these sample measures is essential to understand the quality of the studies we cite. Contrasting earlier studies using this method, a majority of the studies reviewed reported reliability estimates, and displayed few consistent differences related to sample composition.For Experiments 2a and 2b, I tested, refined, and cross-validated a simplified measure of religiosity constructs. This study addressed the cumbersome ordeal of administering a large number of measures by simplifying the many separate religiosity scales currently employed by psycholegal and religion researchers, reducing the number of items needed from 72 to 3Experiments 3 and 4 took the knowledge gained by the first three and applied it to the legal domain using online mock juror simulations following a false-participation paradigm. For Experiment 3, I explored the effects of non-Christian, in comparison to Christian, religious beliefs of deliberating mock jurors on death penalty sentencing outcomes. Finally, for Experiment 4 I explored the effects of relevant and irrelevant religious arguments on verdict and death penalty sentencing outcomes during a simulated deliberation of mock jurors (students and non-students). Results across the two jury simulation studies were inconsistent and somewhat difficult to interpret. Primarily, each study tended to produce very specific results, with only partial support for each hypothesis. There were, however, several interesting non-hypothesized results that warrant future research.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Religion|Law

Recommended Citation

Kimbrough, Christopher D, "Creating and Validating a Simplified Measure of Religiosity and Examining the Effects of Religion on Jury Verdicts" (2019). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI22592196.