Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


The effects of two presentational forms of "battered woman syndrome" testimony on juror/jury decision processes were investigated. It was hypothesized that the presence of the testimony would influence final verdicts via its mediating effect on jurors' interpretations of trial testimony relating to the defendant's beliefs and actions, and that the impact of the testimony would vary as a function of the degree to which it was linked to the defendant. In Experiment I, subjects (N = 108) read a homicide trial involving a battered woman who had killed her husband and was claiming self-defense. A third of the subjects received no expert testimony, while the remaining two-thirds received expert testimony on the battered woman syndrome; for half of these subjects, the expert presented only the general research findings ("general expert"), while in the other half, the expert supplemented this general information with an opinion that the defendant fit the syndrome ("specific expert"). Results indicated that the presence of the specific expert testimony, as compared to the no expert condition, led to interpretations of trial testimony that were more consistent with the defendant's claim of self-defense. These interpretations, in turn, were related to verdicts rendered, with a greater proportion of not guilty verdicts rendered in the specific expert condition. This effect was not evidenced for the general expert condition. Effects for gender were also found. In Experiment II, jurors listened to an audio-taped version of one of the three conditions employed in Experiment I and then deliberated in small groups until a unanimous verdict was reached. A moderate shift in verdicts from second degree to manslaughter was found for the expert testimony conditions (general and specific) in comparison to the no expert condition. Content analyses conducted on the deliberations, as well as jurors' post-deliberation judgments, indicated that the testimony (general and specific) led to more favorable interpretations of some aspects of the defendant's self-defense claim. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings, as well as possible reasons for the differential utilization of the general expert testimony across the two experiments, are discussed.



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