Impression Management and Voir Dire: The Effect of Individual Versus Group Questioning Upon Impression Management Strategies of Potential Jurors

Peter Stevenson, Western Michigan University

Trial attorneys have used both scientific and unscientific selection techniques unsuccessfully to empanel a jury. This ineffectiveness may be due, in part, to a false assumption about the passivity of prospective jurors during questioning. However, this qualitative research project, using detailed interviews, observations and surveys examining the jury selection process in Kalamazoo County, Michigan, finds that some perspective jurors actively alter their presentations of self so they can be seen as fit or unfit for jury service. These potential jurors plan an active role in jury selection as the impressions they give off become a factor in determining whether they will be selected on a jury. These strategic presentations of self can be aided or hindered by the manner in which questions are posed to a potential juror. Questions asked of the entire panel are shown to aid the presentational efforts of some potential jurors while one-on-one questioning makes a non-genuine presentation of self more difficult for them to manage. This demonstrates one's presentational strategies are mediated by the context the questions are given to potential jurors. Therefore, it is suggested that individual questioning is a much more effective way to empanel a jury.

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Updated 05/20/2006