Anticipated affect and sentencing decisions in capital murder

Richard L. Wiener, Leah C. Georges, Juan Cangas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Two studies examine the effects of anticipated emotion on mock jurors' sentencing at the conclusion of a reenactment of a capital murder trial. Together the 2 studies examined the assumption in the Eighth Amendment that the law guides jurors' discretion by directing them to avoid their own sentiments and instead balance aggravation and mitigation to reach a penalty decision in capital murder cases. Study 1 and Study 2 examined the affective forecasts of the positive and negative emotions jurors expected to feel whether they sentenced a convicted murderer to death or whether they sentenced him to life in prison. In 1 study, the anticipated emotions and sentences came from the same participants in a repeated measures design. The second study included a 1 group of forecasters and a second independent group of experiencers, the latter of which did not forecast their emotions post sentence. Forecasters in Study 1 and Study 2 who anticipated feeling more intense positive emotions after assigning a death sentence were more likely to invoke a death sentence even though their positive feelings immediately postsentence were less intense than they had anticipated and the facts of the sentencing phase were the same. Furthermore, those who sentenced the defendant to life also anticipated more intense positive emotions following a life verdict than they actually experienced immediately after their verdict. The paper discusses the intensity bias and the meaning of the findings for the death penalty based upon the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the Eighth Amendment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-280
Number of pages18
JournalPsychology, Public Policy, and Law
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • Affective forecasting
  • Capital murder
  • Sentencing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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