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A cross-cultural evaluation of the Legal Attitudes Questionnaire

(Completed – Under Review)

Since the development of the Legal Attitudes Questionnaire (LAQ) by Boehm in 1968, psycholegal researchers have used the measure to assess the construct of legal authoritarianism in research participants and jurors.  While the LAQ has been used in numerous research projects, it is interesting to note that the factor structure of the measure has never been confirmed.  According to Boehm (1968), the measure consists of three factors relating to authoritarianism, anti-authoritarianism, and equalitarianism.  However, no research has ever confirmed this factor structure.  Kravitz, Cutler, & Moran (1993) revised the LAQ into a more internally consistent measure and conducted the only known factor analysis of the questionnaire.  They, however, did not believe that the measure assessed three independent factors.  Instead, they attempted to fit a single factor model to the data believing that the singular factor was "authoritarianism".  Goodness of fit indices did not support a single factor model and they report that numerous exploratory factor analyses did not reveal an interpretable factor structure.  Couch and Sundre (2001) also tested the proposed Kravitz et al. (1993) unidimensional factor structure and found that it did fit the model.  Therefore, they extracted a new 3-factor structure from their date; however, they did not conduct additional research to test the model they developed.  Our research was designed to compare the three proposed factor structures to determine which is the most appropriate representation of the LAQ.  In addition, we were interested in assessing whether the constructs represented by the measure were similar in Anglo- and Latino-American samples. Our results indicated that the Couch and Sundre (2001) factor structure is the most appropriate factor structure for the LAQ.  This holds true for both Anglo- and Latino-American samples; however, the two groups did differ in the extent to which they endorsed the various constructs of the measure.  A manuscript presenting these findings is currently under review.

 Research Team:   Dr. Stephen J. Ross

                                Dr. Osvaldo F. Morera (University of Texas at El Paso)

                               

Estimating Reasonable Doubt: The influence of individual differences, strength of evidence, and crime seriousness

(Development)

Most research evaluating the Reasonable Doubt standard has examined juror perceptions of what constitutes reasonable doubt; however, little research has assessed the factors that may influence the assessment of reasonable doubt in various cases.  Some researchers have found that jurors’ reasonable doubt standards are influenced by the judicial instructions given to the jurors (Wright & Hall, 2007) and the gender of the victim (Wright, Hanoteau, Parkinson, & Tatham, 2009).  There is also some additional scientific-based and anecdotal evidence suggesting that the crime seriousness may influence reasonable doubt standards (Frisbie & Garrett, 2005; Wright et al., 2009).  For example, jurors may be more willing to convict even when they have doubt of the validity of the evidence against the defendant if the crime is particularly serious (e.g., rape/murder of an 8-year old girl; Frisbie & Garrett, 2005).  The present research will evaluate whether crime seriousness and the strength of evidence influence the reasonable doubt standard used by jurors.  In addition, individual differences of the jurors (e.g., authoritarian personality, social dominance orientation, Belief in a Just World, etc.) will be assessed and used to determine whether these differences also influence the placement of reasonable doubt standards.  We are currently in the process of developing materials for pilot testing of crime seriousness and plan to begin data collection within a couple weeks pending IRB approval.

Research Team:    Dr. Stephen J. Ross