Date of Submission
Campus Only Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
© 2016 Bryn Bandt-Law
The nature of capital punishment cases makes mortality a highly salient factor during trial proceedings. Previous research has explored the effect of mortality salience on human’s decision making in a legal context. This study extends this vein of research by examining the role death plays in jurors’ psychological processes when sentencing a defendant who is severely mentally ill in a capital trial. The current experiment measured mock jurors’ (n=169) and college students’, n=116) Mental Illness Worldview (MIWV), and then experimentally manipulated type of mortality salience (dual-focused: mock jurors who were specifically asked to contemplate their own mortality and were exposed to trial-related death references vs. trial focused: only exposed to death references) and the type of defendant (severely mentally ill vs. neutral) accused of a capital offense. We found that mock jurors perceived mental illness to be a mitigating factor when dual (i.e., self) focused mortality salience was induced, whereas participants only exposed to trial-related death references considered mental illness to be an important aggravating factor in sentencing.
Bandt-Law, Bryn, "The Effect of Mortality Salience on Death Penalty Sentencing Decisions when the Defendant is Severely Mentally Ill." (2016). CMC Senior Theses. 1421.
This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.