Obedience and responsibility: A jury simulation.

Hamilton, V. L. (1978). Obedience and responsibility: A jury simulation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36, 126-146.

Restricting verdict options resulted in fewer convictions, especially when defendant’s action ordered by higher ranking superior. No impact of either IV on sentence.

Employed a jury simulation to explore observers’ attributions of responsibility for destructive obedience with a total of 302 adults (198 experimental, 54 deliberating controls, and 50 nondeliberating controls). The 198 Ss in the main design viewed a slide and tape presentation of a military case resembling that of Lieutenant Calley, gave individual verdicts and other responses, deliberated in 6-person groups, and again gave individual judgments. As predicted, manipulating the rank of the defendant’s superior officer from sergeant to captain increased the gap between superior’s and subordinate’s attributed responsibilities. The superior was also consistently rated as more responsible, and open-ended results suggest that he was responsible for both role- and causally related reasons, unlike the defendant. Restricting the available verdict options lowered convictions, but this effect was primarily due to the restricted-options/captain-superior cell. Sentence assigned was not affected by the manipulations. Both the deliberating and the nondeliberating control groups differed from experimentals. The former group differed on a number of adjective ratings, and the latter group yielded lower conviction rates, raising questions about generalizing from typical jury simulation designs.

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