Effects of trial complexity on decision making

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Abstract

The ability of a civil jury to render fair and rational decisions in complex trials has been questioned. However, the nature, dimensions, and effects of trial complexity on decision making have rarely been addressed. In this research, jury-eligible adults saw a videotape of a complex civil trial that varied in information load and complexity of the language of the witnesses. Information load and complexity differentially affected liability and compensatory decisions. An increase in the number of plaintiffs decreased blameworthiness assigned to the defendant despite contrary evidence and amount of probative evidence processed. Complex language did not affect memory but did affect jurors' ability to appropriately compensate differentially worthy plaintiffs. Jurors assigned compensatory awards commensurate with the plaintiffs' injuries only under low-load and less complex language conditions.

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Horowitz, I. A., ForsterLee, L., & Brolly, I. (1996). Effects of trial complexity on decision making. Journal of Applied Psychology, 81(6), 757–768. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.81.6.757

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