Dateline: September, 2007, Issue 6

How well do jurors understand negligence instructions?

At the end of trials, judges give jurors a set of instructions that explain the laws that are applicable to the case and that direct jurors to reach a verdict in accordance with those laws.

Greene and Johns (2001) investigated the extent to which jurors understand judicial instructions in negligence cases, whether their comprehension was enhanced by access to a written copy of the instructions, and whether deliberations had an effect on jurors' comprehension of instructions.

Comprehension of negligence instructions was about 64%. Having access to written instructions failed to enhance jurors' comprehension of negligence instructions, although the opportunity to deliberate did.

Source Greene, E. & Johns, M. (2001). Jurors' use of instructions on negligence. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 31, pp. 840-859.