Lawrence S. Wrightsman

Professor Emeritus Social Psychology
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Research Interests

My research and scholarship deals with two topics within the psychology-and-law specialty. The first is the study of entrapment. Entrapment is a defense used by a defendant charged with a crime, in which the defendant acknowledges that he or she committed the criminal act but should not be found guilty because his or her action was instigated by actions of law-enforcement personnel. My research has taken two paths; first, along with several honors students, I developed an attitude scale to measure attitudes toward police sting operations and the use of entrapment as a defense. Several factor analyses have led to somewhat inconsistent findings, but in general the factors that emerge reflect, first, a support for whatever the police need to do to catch criminals. and second, a concern that innocent individuals may be enticed to commit crimes. The second path, reflected in the work of doctoral student Vanessa Edkins and me, deals with the qualities that influence jurors' decisions whether to accept or reject the defense of entrapment. The two that emerge strongly are the extent of coercion used by the police to get the person to commit a crime and the past history of the defendant with regard to criminal activity. We continue to test the limits of these two factors on jurors' verdicts and reactions to the entrapment defense. We also are working on a comprehensive book on the entrapment defense.

My second topic of interest is Supreme Court decision making. My interests cover several specific questions, such as: Can the votes of justices and the outcomes of cases be predicted? What makes a justice a success or a failure on the Court? For the first, I am using a data set composed of statistical and expert predictions of all votes and all decisions in a recent term of the Supreme Court (2002-2003). Second, I am analyzing the records of justices now available to the public.

Selected Publications

Posey, A., & Wrightsman, L.S. (In press.) Trial Consulting. New York: Oxford University Press.

Wrightsman, L.S., & Fulero, S.M. (2005). Forensic psychology (2nd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Edkins, V. A., & Wrightsman, L.S. (2004). The psychology of entrapment. In D. Lassiter (Ed.), Interrogations, Confessions, and Entrapment (pp. 215-245). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.

Wrightsman, L.S. (1999). Judicial decision making: Is psychology relevant? New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.