Racial bias in mock juror decision-making: a meta-analytic review of defendant treatment

Law Hum Behav. 2005 Dec;29(6):621-37. doi: 10.1007/s10979-005-8122-9.


Common wisdom seems to suggest that racial bias, defined as disparate treatment of minority defendants, exists in jury decision-making, with Black defendants being treated more harshly by jurors than White defendants. The empirical research, however, is inconsistent--some studies show racial bias while others do not. Two previous meta-analyses have found conflicting results regarding the existence of racial bias in juror decision-making (Mazzella & Feingold, 1994, Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 24, 1315-1344; Sweeney & Haney, 1992, Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 10, 179-195). This research takes a meta-analytic approach to further investigate the inconsistencies within the empirical literature on racial bias in juror decision-making by defining racial bias as disparate treatment of racial out-groups (rather than focusing upon the minority group alone). Our results suggest that a small, yet significant, effect of racial bias in decision-making is present across studies, but that the effect becomes more pronounced when certain moderators are considered. The state of the research will be discussed in light of these findings.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude*
  • Criminal Law / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Decision Making*
  • Ethnicity*
  • Humans
  • Prejudice*
  • Social Perception*
  • United States