Social psychology and plea bargaining: Applications, methodology, and theory

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Abstract

Conducted 2 experiments with male undergraduates to investigate the plea bargaining process. Exp I (143 Ss) used a role-playing procedure to identify variables that affect the acceptance of a plea bargain. 18% of the Ss playing the role of innocent defendants accepted the plea bargain, whereas 83% of the guilty defendants accepted. Two other main effects revealed that defendants were more likely to accept a plea bargain when relatively many charges had been filed against them and/or when the severity of punishment upon conviction was great, although internal analyses revealed that these effects were present in guilty defendants only. Exp II (18 Ss) was conducted using involved participants to provide validation for the major result of Exp I. Ss were made to be innocent or guilty of having prior information about an exam. All were accused of having used prior information and were given an opportuinity to plea bargain rather than face an ethics committee. In accord with Exp I, guilty Ss accepted the plea bargain significantly more often than innocent students. Results are discussed in terms of information differences between innocent and guilty defendants and the availability heuristic. (21 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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