Law and Human Behavior

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 163–181 | Cite as

Chaos in The Courtroom Reconsidered: Emotional Bias and Juror Nullification

  • Irwin A. Horowitz
  • Norbert L. Kerr
  • Ernest S. Park
  • Christine Gockel
Original Article


A widespread presumption in the law is that giving jurors nullification instructions would result in “chaos”—jurors guided not by law but by their emotions and personal biases. We propose a model of juror nullification that posits an interaction between the nature of the trial (viz. whether the fairness of the law is at issue), nullification instructions, and emotional biases on juror decision-making. Mock jurors considered a trial online which varied the presence a nullification instructions, whether the trial raised issues of the law's fairness (murder for profit vs. euthanasia), and emotionally biasing information (that affected jurors’ liking for the victim). Only when jurors were in receipt of nullification instructions in a nullification-relevant trial were they sensitive to emotionally biasing information. Emotional biases did not affect evidence processing but did affect emotional reactions and verdicts, providing the strongest support to date for the chaos theory.


Juror nullification Chaos hypothesis Emotional bias 



This study was supported by a Grant #SES-0214428 from the National Science Foundation to the first two authors. The authors thank James Warmels for his help in data collection and coding. In addition we thank Thomas E. Willging, Barbara O’Brien, and Kristin Sommer who offered cogent comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© American Psychology-Law Society/Division 41 of the American Psychological Association 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Irwin A. Horowitz
    • 1
    • 1
  • Norbert L. Kerr
    • 2
  • Ernest S. Park
    • 3
  • Christine Gockel
    • 2
  1. 1.Oregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  2. 2.Michigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  3. 3.North Dakota State UniversityFargoUSA

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