Past Research

Death Penalty Project
We are currently examining the influence of motivation upon ability to comprehend various forms of death penalty instructions. This research funded by the National Science Foundation examines situation induced promotion (vs. prevention) regulatory focus on the ability of jury eligible mock jurors to comprehend and apply jury instructions in capital murder cases. The study is also investigating the effects of individual differences in regulatory focus on comprehension of jury instructions.

Hate Study
We are interested in looking at the decision- processes in those making decisions about symbolic hate speech court cases. More specifically, what role does the reaction to the symbol itself play and how do First Amendment concerns affect the decision? We are interested in modeling the roles of equal protection and free speech principles in the way people evaluate hate speech claims as a first attempt to comment on the current jurisprudence related to regulating symbolic speech. We are also looking at the effects of subliminal priming of motivations on judgments of hate speech.

Wards of the State in the State of Nebraska
Our lab is conducting a study to determine what factors lead to decisions that make juveniles wards of the state in Nebraska. We are using a combination of archival data and surveys results of caseworkers to determine the factors that predict when the courts decide to make children wards of the state. Using regression-modeling techniques, we will produce a final prediction model for this judgment on a large sample of Nebraska Child Welfare cases. The state of Nebraska is funding this work.

Judicial Decision Making in Child Abuse and Neglect cases
National Council of Juvenile & Family Court Judges has contracted with the Law and Psychology Program to study judicial decision-making in abuse and neglect cases both locally and at several national family court sites. Our lab tracked and continues to track a sample of abuse and neglect cases studying the manner in which judges make a variety of process and outcome decisions about these cases. We are conducting a program evaluation study of a pre-hearing conference as a tool to provide early services to families that enter the court. In addition, we are conducting other studies to look at the effects of diversity and disproportional composition on outcomes in abuse and neglect cases.

Bankruptcy and Credit Disclosure Project
Funded by the American Bankruptcy Institute, Ford Foundation, and the Bankruptcy Coalition, our lab is investigating the effectiveness of the new disclosure rules in the 2005 Bankruptcy Reform Act (BAPCPA) recently passed by Congress. Using an online research protocol and experimental website we are studying the influence of induced emotion and the new disclosure rules on the debtors and non-debtors use of credit cards to purchase goods and services. We are also investigating the role of motivational states in determining the manner in which consumers react to the new enhanced disclosure laws in BAPCPA.


Generic Prejudice Project
Following some of our earlier work on this topic, our lab is investigating the possibility that generic prejudice arises from mere exposure to specific types of criminal cases. We have developed a statistical method of measuring generic prejudice across a number of different cases documenting biases that result from criminal case descriptions. This study hypothesizes that emotional reactions are the triggers of generic prejudice and will test that theory in a mock trial experiment that includes a video reenactment of an actual case complete with opening and closing arguments, witness testimony, jury instructions and jury deliberations. The National Science Foundation funds this project.