Graduation Year

Spring 2012

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Daniel A. Krauss

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2012 Shahrzad Nikoo


In self-defense cases of battered women who kill their abusive husbands, defendants have used Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS) expert testimony to help justify their acts of self-defense. However, past research demonstrates that BWS is ineffective in persuading jurors because it pathologizes the defendant rather than rationalizing her behavior. Additionally, BWS highlights passive (i.e., stereotypical) features of a battered woman, and such testimony may not apply to a defendant with active (i.e., atypical) features of a battered women. The current study hypothesized that another type of expert testimony, Social-Agency Framework (SAF), will persuade jurors to render more lenient verdicts, and that the defendant’s passive or active response history will affect verdict decisions. Additionally, a meditational model predicted that the effect of mock jurors’ gender on verdict decisions will be mediated by their attitudes toward battered women. In a 3(expert testimony: BWS vs. SAF vs. control) x 2(response history: passive vs. active) x 2(gender: male vs. female) model, jury-eligible participants (expected N = 510) recruited from the website mTurk answered a survey measuring their attitudes toward battered women, read a mock trial transcript, and rendered a verdict. The results indicated non-significant findings for the effects of expert testimony and response history on verdict outcomes. A full mediation was found, indicating that gender acted as a proxy for jurors’ attitudes, influencing their verdict decisions. This study has strong legal implications that highlight the prevailing effect of attitudes and how those attitudes may override the effects of expert testimony and defendant response history.


  • Best Senior Thesis in Psychology