Leadership Style and Personality of Mock Jurors and the Effect on Sentencing Decisions

Article excerpt

Attitudes toward sentencing decisions were examined in 135 University students. Subjects were administered the Leadership Ability Evaluation (LAE) and the California Psychological Inventory (CPI). They were asked to make sentencing decisions regarding two mock criminal matters. Data were evaluated using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). In comparison to other leadership styles, individuals who had a democratic-cooperative leadership style scored significantly higher on personality variables of good-impression, self-control, tolerance, and achievement via independence than other leadership styles. In the autocratic-aggressive group, males scored much lower on communality than females. The females in the study scored significantly lower than males on social presence, socialization, and good impression. A two way interaction was noted for leadership style and gender for sentencing. Females with a democratic-cooperative leadership style were significantly harsher in sentencing than males from the same group.

In North America, anyone charged with an indictable offense has the right to a trial by jury, as guaranteed by the American Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom. The dynamics of the jury have been of keen interest to many in the social sciences and the legal profession. Perusal of the literature shows that research in this area has mainly examined political views, gender and racial differences toward decision making by jury members (Levine, 1992). There is an endless discourse amongst lawyers about the best types of jurors for certain cases (Hans & Vidmar, 1986). For this reason, the legal system has turned to the social sciences for insight into individual differences in jury opinion. Within the legal profession, it is assumed that differences in background, personality and attitudes will influence a juror's decision-making (Hastie, Penrod, & Pennington, 1983). Studies conducted on the dynamics of group interaction have led to the conclusion that status, power and privilege have an impact on decisions (Hans & Vidmar, 1986). Jurors' decisions and the verdicts that emerge can be improved by allowing the jurors to ask questions and make notes of the proceedings (Heuer & Penrod, 1996).

The present study sought to investigate differences in personality and leadership style and the effects these would have on mock sentencing decisions in university students. It was hypothesized that students who upheld a democratic leadership style would be more lenient in the sentences they gave whereas those with an authoritarian attitude would be more punitive. Also, it was hypothesized that students who were more elevated on dominance would provide severe sentences in comparison to students who were more tolerant.

METHOD

SUBJECTS

A total of 135 students enrolled in first and third year psychology classes at Laurentian University volunteered as participants in this study. Of this population, 85 were female and 50 were male. Subjects were divided into Leadership Style as a result of their responses to the Leadership Ability Evaluation. The limited number of subjects in the autocratic submissive group led to the re-classifying into only one autocratic group: Laissez-Faire (n = 37), Democratic-Cooperative (n = 47) and Autocratic (n = 51). Subjects were awarded experimental bonus points for their participation and were assured that confidentiality would be maintained in accordance with the APA ethical standards.

PROCEDURE

The subjects were approached during classroom lectures and asked to volunteer for the study. Consent forms were completed and students were given a brief explanation of the study prior to their completion of the Leadership Ability Evaluation and the California Psychological Inventory. They were also asked to respond to two mock criminal cases with corresponding options for punishment.

INSTRUMENTS

The Leadership Ability Evaluation (LAE) assesses one's decision-making and leadership style (Cassel & Stancik, 1981). …