This paper uncovers that emotions are present in the decision-making of jurors and judges. Some researchers suggest that if emotions are utilized professionally, they may pose a benefit to the final verdict. Hamer (2012) demonstrates how emotions are an essential piece of rational decision making, rather than a distraction. The article discusses why emotions are not acceptable in the court of law. First, it is believed that emotions bias our decision making. We attach emotional value to things that are prevalent in our lives.
Second, emotions are uncreditable, as our emotions are dependent on varying factors in our current environment or lives. Lastly, emotions are minimally under our conscious control, as we experience an array of emotion elicited from varying objects that are not directly under our control. All of which we have seen through the analysis of jurors and judges. However, critics of this research suggest that this is only partially correct. The cognitivist approach argues that the bias we feel with emotion may actually enable us to think more critically about a case.
Additionally, although we may feel emotions passively we also have control over how we actively handle our emotions. Humans are somewhat in control of our thoughts, therefore we are capable of overriding intrusive thoughts that may be inducing emotion. Overall, this suggests that emotion may not play a negative role in legal rulings. Hamer (2012) goes on to suggest that judges should think of their emotions as beneficial to their rational thought. Law should always be put first, but emotions have relevance in their exploitation of law.
This is seen first by emotions setting precedence pre-deliberation. Allowing them to apply the law to what is morally salient to them. Additionally, empathy plays a huge role in both considering the outcome of the victim’s and perpetrators’ lives. Although law should drive the overall decision, it is important to empathize with all participants, as the outcomes of their lives are placed in the judge’s hands (Hamer, 2012).
Through the process of this research, I encountered some limitations. Primarily, I found that all of the studies regarding the role emotion plays within juries were conducted on mock juries. Mock juries may resemble the random sampling of a population such as in a real jury. However, real trials take days or months, and the plethora of emotion in such large cases is almost unimaginable, and cannot be recreated in a lab setting. Therefore, future research regarding the emotions of real juries in court cases may be beneficial to the field of emotion and legal decision making. Second, I found a lack of information regarding emotion in judicial decision-making. Therefore, my search on the role emotion plays in their decisions was limited.
The research reviewed in this paper suggests that emotion in the decision-making process is present in the court of law, not only by jurors but also by judges. Although the court of law does not associate with the idea of emotional decision-making, most of their rulings presumably are effected by varying emotions. Emotion plays an essential part in our decision-making. I argue that by disregarding emotion, decisions would be void of nuance and the lived experiences that are rooted in the reality that the law favors some over others. However, considering this information I believe future research should consider the implementation of new restrictions on the appeal to emotions in the court of law. Evidently, juror’s decision-making is driven by emotion, some of which may not benefit the overall process. I argue that restrictions on what is presented in court, such as gruesome crime scene photos or emotionally driven victim statements, need to be regarded with higher restrictions. I argue that the appeals to a juror’s emotion through graphic images and emotional statements serves little purpose to cases, and may result in unjust trials. Moreover, I would advise adequate training on the role of their emotions, and how to regulate integral emotions during the trial. In addition to this proposed new field of research, I assert that it would be beneficial to undertake a full comparison between the emotion in both jurors and judges. Although through years of education and training judges are better at discerning what is relevant to a case, it would be of interest to see whether judges are better at classifying this information more efficiently than jurors.
Moving forward, I believe emotion plays a clear driving factor in legal decision making. This is demonstrated through neural mechanisms and legal participant’s behaviors in the court of law. Emotion clearly plays both a positive and negative role in decision-making, therefore, I believe a new integration of emotion into the court restrictions is essential. To make light of the important role emotion plays, as well to implement the higher restriction. All trials ought to be just, and rid of bias. Although this may be impossible to implement, restrictions on emotional appeal to both the juries and judges may benefit fairness in trials. The first step in legal change however is to acknowledge the role of emotions.