The OU’s contribution to science – psychology research into courtroom decision making

British Science week is a 10 day celebration beginning 11th March 2022. Sarah Ormsby explores the OU's contribution to science by addressing courtroom bias.

British Science week is a 10 day celebration running from 11th – 20th March and as a Psychology student I was keen to explore how the OU has contributed to science using psychological research. 

The British Psychological Society says “Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and how it dictates and influences our behaviour.” The OU’s Psychology lecturer Dr Lee Curley and Psychological Technical lead Dr James Munro have collaborated with Itiel Dror, Senior Cognitive Neuroscience Researcher, UCL to delve into the complexities influencing juror decision making in the courtroom. 

A fascinating review published by the OU Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences highlighted the potential for jury deliberations to be swayed by a range of pre-existing beliefs including bias relating to a defendent’s race, gender or perceived levels of attractiveness. The review also addresses the potential bias of expert witnesses who may be influenced by knowledge beyond the courtroom, for example a confession by someone in custody. 

The review goes on to make important recommendations for improving the system, such as using jury selection methods to eliminate jurors with extreme racial bias from the pool and balancing biased opinions by ensuring that the final jury selected encompass a range of non-extreme biases, such as those who believe in the power of the criminal justice system to deliver appropriate verdicts and those who believe the system is flawed. 

I think this is a vital piece of research and opens up many more exciting avenues for Psychology to be used as a science to expose the weaknesses in our criminal justice system and create a better, fairer way for juries to make their decisions. I feel very proud to be a part of the OU when I read about research like this. 

For science week, why not explore your own faculty to see what else our brilliant university has contributed to science? 

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Sarah Ormsby


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