File Record

White & Cicchini data for Standards of Proof study

White & Cicchini data.sav (44.4KB)

September 2, 2017 (3:35 pm EST)


Standards of Proof study (White & Cicchini)

Lawrence T. White, Beloit College

Numeric/quantitative (rating scales, checkboxes, etc.)


Multi-State Area, United States

June 1, 2017, throughJuly 30, 2017

  • Laboratory experiment
  • Web or mobile electronic device

Nonrandom sample

Approved by IRB or ethics board

  • Psychology
    • Forensic psychology/Criminal justice

Different standards of proof—a preponderance of the evidence, clear and convincing evidence, and proof beyond a reasonable doubt—are designed to provide defendants with different levels of protection. However, little is known about juror sensitivity to instructions regarding the standard of proof. In an online experiment, 495 jury-eligible adults read 1 of 4 trial summaries and were instructed to apply 1 of 3 standards of proof. Contrary to what courts desire, different standards of proof did not produce different verdict patterns. Instead, 90% of mock jurors used a simple rule about how much evidence of guilt is needed to convict: Vote not guilty if less than 60% of the evidence favors the State, but vote guilty if more than 65% of the evidence favors the State. We advise judges in criminal cases to use an instruction that emphasizes the importance of the burden of proof and explicitly contrasts “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” with lower burdens of proof.

standard of proof, reasonable doubt, clear and convincing evidence, preponderance of evidence, judicial instructions, juror decision-making