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  1. #1
    Epiphany
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    Default Trial By Jury and the Power of Conformity

    I was going to start two different threads; one about the power of conformity and the other about the (in)justice of having one's fate determined by something so unreliable as a group decision, when people easily yield their own opinions to conform to the majority's; but this will suffice.

    Social experiments have proven that people are willing to question their own judgement, conclusions and even vision when it differs from the crowd; even without the presence of a charismatic personality challenging them and feeding them persuasive rhetoric.

    Keeping in mind that people are so easily swayed by social influences, is it fair to judge a defendant's innocence or guilt based upon it, when there is no hard evidence to convict them?


    The Asch Conformity Experiment:

    [YOUTUBE="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUC3d-Qu3KU"]Asch Conformity Experiment[/YOUTUBE]

    Elevator Experiment:

    [YOUTUBE="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OC_JfCWYnTQ"]Elevator Experiment[/YOUTUBE]

  2. #2
    insert random title here Randomnity's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moniker View Post
    Keeping in mind that people are so easily swayed by social influences, is it fair to judge a defendant's innocence or guilt based upon it, when there is no hard evidence to convict them?
    No. But some people are afraid that a judge is more biased.

    Can you think of a better alternative? I would prefer a small panel of judges or the creation of a new job, a paid "professional juror" with some kind of education.
    -end of thread-

  3. #3
    Epiphany
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    Quote Originally Posted by Randomnity View Post
    No. But some people are afraid that a judge is more biased.

    Can you think of a better alternative? I would prefer a small panel of judges or the creation of a new job, a paid "professional juror" with some kind of education.
    That is an interesting concept, and one that I would support if these individuals were continually assessed of their ability to make objective decisions.

    An acquaintance of mine was recently chosen for jury duty. She was the only woman who didn't immediately find the defendant guilty of molesting his step-daughter. One of the jurors who never questioned the man's innocence admitted that she was abused as a child. There was no evidence to convict him, the step-daughter's story had several holes in it, and she had a history of bad behavior at school and home. After the jury deliberated, they were split 5-7 and wanted a mistrial, but the bailiff said they had to come to a unanimous decision and couldn't leave until they did...so "guilty" it was.

    Obviously, there were other factors involved other than social pressures to conform, but I imagine that many jurors are easily swayed from their own conclusions by the majority or more persausive jurors while deliberating amongst themselves. I guess I have little faith in the average person to come to conclusions that aren't skewed by personal bias and social conformity.

  4. #4
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    Whoa! I just watched both of these videos and found them somewhat disturbing, although I know I shouldn't be surprised. It seems as though one's ability to make objective decisions (or, at least, decisions based upon one's own information and perception) is heavily injured by the presence of others - and if I might wager a guess, it has more to do with a need for validation than concern with information others may have.

    I think people are generally sensitive to criticism (yes, even plenty of the ones who claim rebellion, badassery, and total immunity to the opinions of others) on some level, and they tend to fear judgment at the hands of their peers. Exactly whose approval they care about may vary, but almost everyone likes to be liked by others. For example, way too many people have found themselves addicted to Facebook; I believe this is largely owing to the quick fix of validation one receives for sharing his or her life with others and receiving "likes" on even the most mundane of status updates - thus reaffirming (over and over again) that one's existence is acknowledged and approved of by one's social circle. Even those who swim against mainstream culture usually belong to various subcultures, enjoying the company of those whom they consider to be like themselves. Apparently for some, the desire to belong can be pretty overwhelming; I have a friend who recently gave birth to her first child after experiencing "severe baby fever"...when she realized that the majority of her friends were pregnant or had already been pregnant. Scary.

    Having said that, I don't feel it's right to essentially allow social influences to determine a defendant's guilt or innocence sans the presence of physical evidence. Persuasion plays a key role even in those cases that do feature hard evidence, though, too. In so many areas, the justice system is greatly flawed, and sadly, I'm not sure what could possibly be proposed to ensure complete objectivity. Everyone carries biases of some kind. I fear being selected for jury duty, and then wondering forever whether I'd assisted in the punishment of an innocent individual...or allowed some kind of beast to walk free. On the other hand, there are the recent cases with infamous outcomes that absolutely incensed me. Casey Anthony? Troy Davis, anyone?

    Moniker, did your acquaintance seem to feel a little bit guilty about the verdict? I'm getting that feeling, and I'm curious.
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    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    The judgement of a jury of peers is preferable to judgement by judges, do you want diplock courts like they had here in Northern Ireland during the troubles? They very quickly become rubber stamping of decisions made by the police to pursue convictions of particular people.

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    I've read about the Asch Conformity Experiment and its scary how a large number of people will conform to the majority even when obviously wrong. It makes you think about the implications this will have on more serious matters. Hitler had a huge number of people just blindly following his ideas.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SuchIrony View Post
    I've read about the Asch Conformity Experiment and its scary how a large number of people will conform to the majority even when obviously wrong. It makes you think about the implications this will have on more serious matters. Hitler had a huge number of people just blindly following his ideas.
    Some of these are dated I think, others are interesting but not for the reasons which people suspect or which are most obvious and they usually only serve to make me think that people are unaware of the ways in which they are conformist when they think they are anything but.

    The Stanford Prison experiment for instance or the other obedience experiment which Milgram carried out in which it appeared as though on the say so of authority, ie scientist in white coat, people administered supposedly seriously harmful and even lethal shocks to people could reveal more about repressed anger, underlying sadistic tendencies rather than obedience trumphing conscience.

    When in the UK they did something similar, Darren Brown did it for entertainment, they had an audience which could provide punishments and troubles or treats to a contestant, they consistently administered punishments, the context was a little different but it vindicated the underlying sadism idea rather than obedience to authority because besides saying "you can choose whatever you like" the presentor provided no direction to do one thing or another.

    Conformity to some opinions is considered a good thing too, its often the most politically correct in one way that are critical of the political correctness of someone who thinkings the other way.

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    Why not simply disallow jurors from communicating? Either require a majority of 10 out of 12, or shrink juries to six members, and have a majority of five required for a conviction. Any fewer, the verdict is not guilty. No single person has the power to decide the verdict, and everyone acts according to their own conscience.

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    Honor Thy Inferior Such Irony's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dala View Post
    Why not simply disallow jurors from communicating? Either require a majority of 10 out of 12, or shrink juries to six members, and have a majority of five required for a conviction. Any fewer, the verdict is not guilty. No single person has the power to decide the verdict, and everyone acts according to their own conscience.
    I wholeheartedly agree.
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  10. #10
    Epiphany
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    Quote Originally Posted by AntiheroComplex View Post
    Whoa! I just watched both of these videos and found them somewhat disturbing, although I know I shouldn't be surprised. It seems as though one's ability to make objective decisions (or, at least, decisions based upon one's own information and perception) is heavily injured by the presence of others - and if I might wager a guess, it has more to do with a need for validation than concern with information others may have.

    I think people are generally sensitive to criticism (yes, even plenty of the ones who claim rebellion, badassery, and total immunity to the opinions of others) on some level, and they tend to fear judgment at the hands of their peers. Exactly whose approval they care about may vary, but almost everyone likes to be liked by others. For example, way too many people have found themselves addicted to Facebook; I believe this is largely owing to the quick fix of validation one receives for sharing his or her life with others and receiving "likes" on even the most mundane of status updates - thus reaffirming (over and over again) that one's existence is acknowledged and approved of by one's social circle. Even those who swim against mainstream culture usually belong to various subcultures, enjoying the company of those whom they consider to be like themselves. Apparently for some, the desire to belong can be pretty overwhelming; I have a friend who recently gave birth to her first child after experiencing "severe baby fever"...when she realized that the majority of her friends were pregnant or had already been pregnant. Scary.
    Good points. I do think validation-seeking is a root cause of conformity when a person is willing to deny the truth as they know it in order to fit in. It's frightening to think of the implications this has on a large group of people with a mob mentality.

    Quote Originally Posted by AntiheroComplex View Post
    Having said that, I don't feel it's right to essentially allow social influences to determine a defendant's guilt or innocence sans the presence of physical evidence. Persuasion plays a key role even in those cases that do feature hard evidence, though, too. In so many areas, the justice system is greatly flawed, and sadly, I'm not sure what could possibly be proposed to ensure complete objectivity. Everyone carries biases of some kind. I fear being selected for jury duty, and then wondering forever whether I'd assisted in the punishment of an innocent individual...or allowed some kind of beast to walk free. On the other hand, there are the recent cases with infamous outcomes that absolutely incensed me. Casey Anthony? Troy Davis, anyone?

    Moniker, did your acquaintance seem to feel a little bit guilty about the verdict? I'm getting that feeling, and I'm curious.
    My acquaintance did feel a little guilty, but stated that her change in verdict was based on the fact that the defendant didn't convey his innocence passionately enough, and the bailiff required all jurors to come to a unanimous decision even though they wanted a mistrial, which I think is wrong if there isn't enough evidence to convict someone. Those who changed their verdict may have done so simply because they wanted to leave the courthouse after spending so much time there.

    Considering that social influences have such an impact on the decisions of certain individuals, I wonder if jurors should be allowed to convene and deliberate who is right and who is wrong. Having never been in that situation, I could easily see someone feeling singled out and changing their stance simply because the opposition is greater and may feel intimidated to adopt their view.

    Quote Originally Posted by SuchIrony View Post
    I've read about the Asch Conformity Experiment and its scary how a large number of people will conform to the majority even when obviously wrong. It makes you think about the implications this will have on more serious matters. Hitler had a huge number of people just blindly following his ideas.
    Precisely! It's easy to see how a nation will follow a persuasive figure like sheep, if nothing else, because everyone else is doing it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    Some of these are dated I think...
    The Asch Conformity Experiment initially took place in the 50's, but has been replicated many times and yielded similar results. The other was a candid camera clip. I would surmise that people feel the need to conform as much today as they did back then. The Stanford Prison experiment is another discussion in itself.

    Quote Originally Posted by dala View Post
    Why not simply disallow jurors from communicating? Either require a majority of 10 out of 12, or shrink juries to six members, and have a majority of five required for a conviction. Any fewer, the verdict is not guilty. No single person has the power to decide the verdict, and everyone acts according to their own conscience.
    Indeed, it would limit the exposure of social influcences in the decision-making process.

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