Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version

March 1994


Published in Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 12 (1994), pp. 127–147. Copyright © 1994 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Used by permission.


Two experiments were performed to investigate the role of extra-legal factors in a simulated product liability trial. In cases where the factual evidence was identical, subjects’ liability judgments varied as a function of the case-specific factor of the alleged source of the plaintiff’s injury. In deciding cases differently depending on the alleged cause, subjects relied on intuitions about what injury sources are more or less likely to cause a certain kind of injury. Juror- specific factors also influenced subjects’ verdicts. There was no difference between students and non-students, but race and SES—factors that are often correlated with student status—did affect subjects’ verdicts. Low-SES and minority subjects were more likely to find the defendant liable than high-SES and white subjects. The results are considered in terms of general decision-making processes, and the implications for jury selection and mock jury research are discussed.