Vaughn, T.J., Holleran, L.B., and Silver, J.R. (2019). Applying moral foundations theory to the explanation of capital jurors’ sentencing decisions. Justice Quarterly 36(7):1176-1205.
This study applies moral foundations theory to capital juror decision making. We hypothesized that binding moral foundations would predict death qualification and punitive sentencing decisions, whereas individualizing moral foundations would be associated with juror disqualification and a leniency effect. Additionally, we considered whether moral foundations can explain differences in death penalty application between conservatives and liberals. Respondents from two independent samples participated in a mock-juror task in which the circumstances of a hypothetical defendant’s case varied. Results revealed moral foundations were strong predictors of death qualification. The binding and individualizing foundations were related to sentencing decisions in the expected ways. Supporting our contention that moral foundations operate differently across different types of cases, heterogeneity in the effects of moral foundations was observed. Finally, we found support for the hypothesis that the relationship between sentencing decisions and conservatism would be attenuated by moral foundations.