Social recognition memory and the cross-race effect

Brooke A Smith, University of Texas at El Paso


The Fifth Amendment ensures that no person shall be compelled to act as a witness against himself in a court of law. Research has shown that assertion of this right to not self incriminate actually may indicate guilt in the eyes of jurors (Fisher & Fehr, 1985; Shaffer & Sadowski, 1979). In the current study, the bias associated with the Fifth amendment was analyzed further by examining the effect of a defendant's ethnicity and prior criminal record on his right to invoke the Fifth Amendment to different degrees. Mock jurors read a trial transcript and watched a short video of the defendant taking the stand and testifying on his own behalf, taking the stand and pleading the fifth for certain details of the crime, or not taking the stand at all. Three different defendants were presented: a European American defendant, an African American defendant, and a Hispanic defendant, all with either two or no prior convictions. These variables were crossed with testimony type resulting in a 3 x 3 x 2 factorial design. Results showed that defendants who did not take the stand were acquitted more often and were given the most positive evaluations by jurors compared to either defendants who pled the fifth or defendants that provided full testimony. Results also indicated that defendants with a prior record received longer sentences and that the African American defendant who had a prior record was significantly more likely to be convicted. The story model is used to clarify and explain these results. ^

Subject Area

Law|Psychology, Experimental

Recommended Citation

Smith, Brooke A, "Social recognition memory and the cross-race effect" (2008). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1453859.