Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Color Blind Juries?

Hat tip to A Typical Joe for provoking some interesting thought. He quotes a speech by Malcolm Gladwell, author of "The Tipping Point" and "Blink."

Gladwell points out that orchestra conductors used to claim that female musicians were inferior, because all the great orchestras consisted of men only. But when the practice of auditioning musicians changed, by placing the musician behind a screen so the conductor couldn't see them - suddenly lots of woman started getting selected.

Gladwell proposes something similar for jury trials - not allowing the jury to see the defendant. Gladwell and A Typical Joe think that might remove some bias from the process, and perhaps narrow differences in the black vs. white conviction rate.

It seems to make lots of sense. I'm wondering why we consider the current trial process as something fixed and unchangeable? Academic studies of psychology have clearly documented the effect of bias on decision making, and the nature of social science experimentation itself controls, or attempts to control, for bias.

So we've learned a lot about decision making and bias - why not put that knowledge into practice in the courts?

1 comment:

Joe said...

Thanks for the comment and the link!