Dual Process Models of Persuasion and Juror Decision Making

Persuasion plays a critical role in every trial. In essence, judges and jurors must evaluate persuasive arguments from multiple sources (e.g. attorneys, plaintiffs, defendants, and witnesses) to decide a variety of legal questions that arise in each case (e.g. What are the facts? What is the applicable law? Is particular evidence admissible? Which side should the verdict favor?). These trial attributes have led several applied researchers (Cooper, Bennett and Sukel, 1996; Kovera, McAuliff and Hebert, 1999;

Leippe and Romanczyk, 1989) to adopt information-processing models from the persuasion literature to examine decision making in legal contexts. Two models that have proven particularly useful are the heuristic-systematic model (HSM; Chaiken, 1980) and the elaboration likelihood model (ELM; Petty and Cacioppo, 1986).

According to the HSM and ELM, people use two cognitive processes to evaluate persuasive messages. People who engage in systematic (HSM) or central (ELM) processing expend a great deal of cognitive effort scrutinizing the content of a persuasive message. Systematic processors attend to argument quality and are more likely to adopt the position advocated in the persuasive message if it contains valid, high-quality arguments than if it does not (Petty and Cacioppo, 1984; Petty, Cacioppo and Goldman, 1981). Heuristic (HSM) or peripheral (ELM) processors, in contrast, rely on mental shortcuts or decision rules when evaluating a persuasive message and focus less on its content and quality. Various cues associated with a persuasive message (e.g. the length or number of arguments; Petty and Cacioppo, 1984), its source (e.g. expertise, likeability, or physical attractiveness; Chaiken and Maheswaran; 1994), and the audience (e.g. positive or negative audience reactions; Axsom, Yates and Chaiken; 1987) may affect message evaluation for people processing heuristically.

Ability and motivation are two factors that moderate the extent to which people engage in systematic or heuristic processing according to the HSM (Chaiken, 1980) and ELM (Petty and Cacioppo, 1986). A person must be able and motivated to process a persuasive message systematically before such processing can occur. If either ability or motivation is low, an individual is more likely to engage in heuristic processing when evaluating the persuasive message compared to someone who is able and motivated to process systematically.

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