Reaching a verdict
Green, D.W. and McCloy, R. (2003) Reaching a verdict. Thinking & Reasoning, 9 (4). pp. 307-333. ISSN 1354-6783
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1080/1354678034000268
Two experiments, using a mock legal case, confirmed the causal role of arguments in verdict decisions and explored the process involved. Experiment I showed that verdicts varied with the strength of counter-arguments and Experiment 2 showed that the use of background information that undermined such arguments determined the verdict reached. Such results confirm the causal role of arguments but do not speak to the representations constructed. In both experiments we analysed the reasons proposed for verdicts. Participants generally represented the state of affairs, and conjectured state of affairs, to which the arguments referred. Experiment 2 also asked participants about the number of causal possibilities they envisaged. Confidence in the verdict was moderated by the strength of counter-arguments but in different ways for those who envisaged a single causal account as opposed to two causal accounts. In the former case, confidence decreased with the rated strength of counter-arguments. In the latter case, confidence increased. We suggest that verdicts are abductive explanations of the events generated through a process of mental simulation.