Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Experimental Psychology


April G. Thomas


Adolescents are considered less responsible than adults for criminal behavior due to their developmental immaturity (Cauffman & Steinberg, 2000). When adolescents are transferred from juvenile court to adult court, however, they may be judged by jury members who do not recognize adolescents' diminished maturity nor understand how maturity influences culpability. The present study therefore sought to examine how information about adolescent defendants' age, gender, and psychosocial maturity influences mock jurors' perceptions of responsibility, guilt, and appropriate sentencing severity. A pilot study (N = 113 undergraduates) first determined the most appropriate vignette for the final study: an adolescent charged with hit-and-run for injuring a pedestrian while driving without a license. In the full study, Amazon Mechanical Turk participants (N = 351) were assigned to one of 24 conditions in a 3 (Age) x 2 (Gender) x 4 (Maturity) design where the defendant was depicted as: 13, 15, or 17 years old; male or female; and less, equally, or more mature than same-aged peers (or no maturity information provided). Main and interaction effects were examined through MANCOVA analyses. Results indicated no main effects of defendant age or gender on mock jurors'perceptions; however, the defendants' maturity did influence perceptions of responsibility and guilt. Exploratory interaction effects between age and maturity were significant in predicting perceptions of guilt, and interaction effects between age and gender were significant in predicting perceptions of responsibility. These results indicate that providing information about adolescent defendants' maturity may be essential in ensuring developmentally appropriate legal proceedings.




Received from ProQuest

File Size

81 pages

File Format


Rights Holder

Isabelle M. Clough