Loaded words in the courtroom


A few judges recently have banned words like "victim" from their courtroom, concerned that the defendant will be prejudiced. However, some commentators believe that such steps are counterproductive and have no basis in empirical literature. In addition, some states, like New Jersey, continue to use the word "victim" in their model jury instructions for crimes in which consent is a defense (e.g., sexual assault). In this paper, I examine the existing psychology literature regarding loaded words, finding that loaded words like “victim” can bias individual jurors in some criminal cases. If judges use the word in situations in which jurors may think the judge is referring to the person allegedly injured, the jurors may be more likely to find the defendant guilty, at least before deliberation with other jurors. In addition, I describe a web experiment that I conducted to determine whether jurors were more likely to find the defendant guilty when the complaining witness was described as a "victim" than a "complainant" in the judge's closing instructions. Participants in the experiment were shown a video of a simulated sexual assault trial, which concluded with a judge reading the New Jersey model instructions mentioning the word "victim" about ten times (participants in the control group saw a video in which the judge used the word "complainant").



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 74,389

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

  • Only published works are available at libraries.


Added to PP

3 (#1,305,977)

6 months
2 (#276,659)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references