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Why the impact? Negative affective change as a mediator of the effects of victim impact statements.

Wevodau, Amy L.
June 4, 2015

Source: (2014) Journal of Interpersonal Violence. 29(16):2884-2903.

Victim impact statements (VISs) represent a contentious legal and psychological point of debate. Current knowledge concerning the influence of VISs on jurors’ emotional states and views of offenders is unclear. Using a sexual assault case, the present study attempted to disentangle these points of debate in the body of existing literature by (a) examining the direct influences of the presence of a VIS and juror Need for Affect (NFA) on sentencing recommendations, (b) assessing overall negative affective change as a mediating mechanism of these predictors, and (c) if mediation was present, identifying specific negative emotions that explain the effects of negative affective change. Results showed that presence of a VIS and a greater proclivity to approach emotions were associated with significantly greater sentencing recommendations. Moreover, change in negative affect mediated the effects of NFA approach and VIS exposure. Examination of changes in specific negative emotions revealed that increases in being upset and nervous mediated the impact of VIS condition; in addition, increases in hostility mediated the effect of NFA approach. Results are discussed with regard to emotion-based decision making of potential jurors, applications to trial process, and future research in the area. (author’s abstract)


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