The Impact of Experienced and Expressed Emotion on Legal Factfinding

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Judges and jurors are asked to comb through horrific evidence of accidents and crimes when choosing verdicts and punishment. These factfinders are likely to experience and express intense emotions as a result. A review of social, cognitive, moral, and legal psychological science illuminates how experienced and expressed emotions in legal settings can unconsciously bias even the most well-intentioned, diligent factfinder's decision-making processes in prejudicial ways. Experiencing negative emotions creates motivation to blame and punish-instigating blame validation processes to justify guilty/liability verdicts and harsher punishments. The review also examines how emotion expression can impugn legal actors" credibility when it violates factfinders" (often unrealistic) expectations for appropriate emotion in legal contexts. It considers misguided and promising interventions to help factfinders regulate emotional responses, advocating limiting emotional evidence as much as possible and, when not possible, helping factfinders reframe how they think about it and remain aware of their potential biases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-203
Number of pages23
JournalAnnual Review of Law and Social Science
StatePublished - 2021


  • blame
  • decision making
  • emotion
  • gender
  • gruesome photographs
  • judges
  • juror
  • jury
  • punishment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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