Mentor:Dr. Adriel Boals
Current Research Topic:Conviction Bias and PTSD
Abstract:Recently, the Netflix documentary, “Making a Murderer,” has initiated a controversial debate in the general U.S. population about the guilt or innocence of Steven Avery. Mr Avery was convicted of murder, but the details of the evidence are controversial. This documentary has provided a unique opportunity to investigate factors that may affect decisions concerning an accused person’s guilt or innocence. The goal of the study is to develop an understanding about how an individual’s past experiences and current attributes can impact jury decisions. Specifically, we will investigate the relationship between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom severity, socio-economic status, political beliefs, perceived social injustice, and decisions of guilt or innocence of the accused. Participants who have seen the documentary were recruited via social media and completed an online survey concerning their judgments about Avery’s guilt or innocence, along with a number of psychological and demographical variables. We hypothesize that higher PTSD symptom severity, lower socio-economic status, more liberal political beliefs, and higher perceived social injustice will be associated with greater likelihood of judging Steven Avery as innocent. If we obtain compelling findings, the results will be written for publication and presentation at conferences. We expect this study to improve our understanding of the factors that influence jury bias and decision-making.