Orange County Register

CSUF Researcher Uncovers Subconscious Bias Among Jurors

Cal State Fullerton Associate Professor of Psychology Russ Espinoza researched whether the theory of "aversive racism" plays a role in death penalty decisions — and found the answer is "yes."

"Aversive racism" is thought to be a phenomenon in which people believe they harbor no prejudice toward minorities, when in fact they have a subconscious bias, Espinoza said.

"When jurors can find other reasons besides race to place blame, such as low socioeconomic status, they will tend to be more punitive toward minority defendants and feel that they are not being prejudicial," he said in explaining the theory.

"My past research has shown that the race or ethnicity of the defendant alone is not sufficient for jurors to demonstrate bias," he said in explaining the origins of the study. "This begs the question, how is it that African Americans and Latinos are found guilty more often and given more punitive sentences, such as the death penalty, than European Americans for committing similar crimes?" Continue reading.

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