The psychology of jury decision making in Age discrimination claims

Richard L. Wiener, Katlyn S. Farnum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Recently, the Supreme Court decided that discrimination cases under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967 (29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634) are distinct from those under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (CRA) of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § e2000 et seq.). The ADEA must use "but for" causality instructions (e.g., age must be the direct cause of an adverse outcome), whereas Title VII allows mixed-motive instructions (an illegitimate factor need only be a contributory cause). Two simulated jury experiments examined the effect of instruction type in a case in which a plaintiff charged that a company discriminated against him because of his age by demoting him to a lower status job. The first experiment varied whether the facts favored the plaintiff or the defendant, taking into consideration the moderating effect of jurors' chronic regulatory focus. Experiment 1 showed that participants who received "but for," as opposed to mixed-motive, instructions found for the defendant, regardless of case valence. Furthermore, jurors weighed less heavily their beliefs that the company made use of the plaintiff's age in the "but for" causality instruction condition than in the mixed-motive condition. Regulatory focus moderated the effect of instruction type in that the instruction effect was strongest when participants were low in prevention focus. Experiment 2 added an ambiguous fact pattern and replicated the instruction effect, demonstrating that the difference in outcome based on instruction type was not dependent upon extreme fact patterns. Experiment 2 also found evidence for promotion focus effects on verdicts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-409
Number of pages15
JournalPsychology, Public Policy, and Law
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2013


  • Age discrimination
  • Jury instructions
  • Regulatory focus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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