Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

School of Communication and Journalism

First Advisor

Kathryn D Coduto


Attribution Theory, Cognitive-Experiential Self-Theory, Communication, Jury Decision Making, Locus of Control, Small Group


As a pillar in our judicial system, the courts utilize almost ten million citizens each year for jury service. As a result, the courts are faced with issues of inconsistency and unpredictability. This study aims to examine some factors that significantly influence jury decision-making by investigating cognitive experiential self-theory (CEST) as a jury decision-making model, unified with attribution theory to better predict verdict outcomes. An online survey was distributed to 121 participants. The respondents were asked to read a civil trial case presentation; they were then randomly divided into two conditions (high and low unrelated detail eyewitness testimony). The testimonies had the same relevant information with a single sentence difference regarding the character of the witness. Finally, participants were asked to come to a verdict deciding guilt, liability, and monetary award. Analysis of the responses further confirmed CEST as a jury decisionmaking model. Participants who received the high unrelated detail eyewitness testimony were more likely to find the defendant not guilty. Analysis also showed participants with a stronger sense of external locus of control, those who rely on powerful others and chance, attributed higher liability to the defendant. The results indicate that irrelevant factors do have an impact on jury decision-making. Also, the individual difference and message factors have meaningful theoretical implications, as well as applicable jury selection and trial preparation implications.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Jury -- Decision making.
Cognitive psychology.
Trial practice -- Psychological aspects.
Verdicts -- Psychological aspects.
Attribution (Social psychology)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright