Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Gary L. Wells

Second Advisor

Jason C. K. Chan


Research on juror decision-making has been vast. Research on plea-bargaining, in contrast, has been scarce. This fact runs in opposition to the reality that less than 10% of cases in most jurisdictions ever make it to trial. Typically, plea-negotiations rather than jurors determine the outcome of cases. The present research examines the willingness of people to accept plea-bargains when guilty or innocent. All participants were paired with a confederate-participant. Half of the participants were randomly assigned to the guilty condition and the other half were in the innocent condition. Those in the guilty condition were induced by the confederate-participant to cheat on a problem that was supposed to be solved individually. All participants (whether guilty or innocent) were then accused of having cheated on one of the problems. Participants were then told that they could choose to sign a statement agreeing to work in the research lab for 20 hours (the plea deal) or risk a charge of academic dishonesty. Although guilty participants were expected to accept the plea more often than innocent participants, individual differences were expected to moderate the magnitude of this effect. The plea acceptance results confirmed the hypotheses--guilty people accepted the plea deal at a rate of 79%, which was significantly more often than innocent individuals. More importantly, innocent participants were still willing to accept the plea agreement at a significant rate of 52%. Among the innocent, belief in a just world had no moderating effects on the rate of plea acceptance. Among the guilty however, those with stronger endorsement of belief in a just world were significantly more likely to accept the plea than those weaker in belief in a just world. Individuals with higher perceived intelligence and ACT scores were generally more likely to reject the plea than those who scored lower on these measures, but only among the innocent.


Copyright Owner

Miko M. Wilford



Date Available


File Format


File Size

89 pages