Will Jurors Believe Nonbelievers? Perceptions of Atheist Rape Victims in the Courtroom

Jazmin L. Brown-Iannuzzi, Jonathan M. Golding, Will M. Gervais, Kellie R. Lynch, Nesa E. Wasarhaley, Sierra Bainter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

We investigated the impact of a victim's belief in God on mock jurors' perceptions of the victim and verdict decisions in a mock rape trial. Four hundred eighteen community members (246 women, 172 men) read a rape trial summary involving an acquaintance rape in which the victim indirectly indicated that she was an atheist, Christian, or there was no mention of religious affiliation. In addition to rendering a verdict, participants rated the victim on her level of morality and rated other aspects of the trial (e.g., victim credibility). We found that the perceived morality of the victim mediated the relationship between the victim's religious belief and the participants' verdict, such that participants perceived the Christian victim as more moral than the atheist victim, which predicted a higher conviction rate. In addition, we found evidence for a sequential mediation pattern such that the effect of the victim's religious belief on participants' verdict was sequentially mediated by morality, sympathy, credibility, responsibility, and the strength of the prosecution's case. The results support prior research suggesting atheists are viewed as amoral and have implications for better understanding the role of victim characteristics on attributions in a rape trial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPsychology of Religion and Spirituality
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019

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Keywords

  • Atheism
  • Mock trial
  • Psychology and law
  • Psychology of religion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Religious studies
  • Applied Psychology

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