Effectiveness of Question Trails as Jury Decision Aids: the Jury's Still Out

Catriona McKay*, Mark Nolan, Michael Smithson

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)


    Despite its importance, research has revealed limitations in jury decision-making and has sought to develop processes for its improvement. Using 92 individual mock jurors, this study examined the use of question trails (QTs) as decision aids, testing a cognitive load explanation of their benefits and investigating individual differences in need for cognition (NFC) and need for cognitive closure (NFCC). Only limited evidence was obtained suggesting significant improvements due to QTs, and results failed to find a mediating role for extrinsic references as cognitive load explanations propose. QTs did not appear to increase decision confidence or significantly reduce perceived difficulty, leading rather, for some offences, to lower confidence. Inconclusive evidence was obtained consistent with a moderating role for individual NFC and NFCC on QT effectiveness. Implications for future research, theoretical understandings of jury decision-making, and the use of QTs in the legal system are discussed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)492-510
    Number of pages19
    JournalPsychiatry, Psychology and Law
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2014


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