Ageism in the Courtroom: Mock Juror Perceptions of Elder Neglect

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The present study explored ageism in a civil court context. In two experiments, male and female undergraduates (Experiment 1; N = 215) and community members (Experiment 2; N = 203) read an institutional elder neglect trial summary in which a nursing home was sued for failure to provide the necessary care for an elderly female resident. The trial varied as to who provided witness testimony: the live victim, a recorded deposition from the victim, the victim’s middle-aged niece (Experiments 1, 2), the victim’s elderly floor-mate (Experiment 1), or no testimony was provided (Experiment 2). Across both experiments, higher ageism was negatively associated with pro-victim ratings (e.g. victim memory). Ageism indirectly decreased the likelihood of ruling for the plaintiff through ratings of sympathy for the victim and victim memory (Experiment 1), and defendant responsibility (Experiment 2). Trial ratings did not differ based on whether victim testimony was presented live or via recorded deposition (Experiments 1, 2). The results suggest that jurors’ ageist attitudes may engender negative perceptions of an elderly victim, which can affect the outcome of neglect cases. We discuss the potential for these findings to inform legal proceedings and protection of elderly individuals.

Original Citation

Wasarhaley, N. & Golding, J.M. (2017). Ageism in the Courtroom: Mock Juror Perceptions of Elder Neglect. Psychology, Crime & Law 23(9), 874-898. https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1068316X.2017.1338699