Getting Inside the Black Box

Toward A Better Understanding of Civil Jury Behavior

by Robert J. MacCoun


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This paper advocates the use of systematic empirical research on civil jury behavior as an important tool in the policymaking process. The author discusses the methods that have been used for studying jury behavior, summarizes major findings of previous research (primarily on criminal juries), and considers what various research strategies can contribute to our understanding of jury behavior. In particular, he emphasizes the importance of mock jury experiments for explaining patterns identified in archival analyses and for testing the effects of proposed policy changes. In addition, he outlines four topics that should be given high priority on the research agenda: (1) identify the processes that have brought about the apparent patterns of inequity identified in archival analyses of jury verdicts; (2) examine the relationship between damages and liability; (3) study the effect of special or itemized verdict forms on the deliberation process, and how accurately they represent the jurors' actual judgments; and (4) assist the courts in improving the structure of the trial and the decision task.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Note series. The note was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1979 to 1993 that reported other outputs of sponsored research for general distribution.

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