Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master Of Arts In Clinical Psychology

Colleges & School

College Of Arts And Sciences

First Advisor

Gregory Jurenec, PhD

Library of Congress Subject Heading

Mentally ill--Commitment and detention; Jurors--United States--Decision making


There has been a great deal of research in the area of jury behavior in the criminal justice system. However, there has been very little research in regard to jury behavior within the civil commitment process, even though this process also can result in the deprivation of civil liberty. There is some question as to what factors influence juror recommendations for civil commitment. Many people may not even consider significant clinical conditions, which would qualify for civil commitment, to be an illness. While race has been shown to be a factor in the decisions of jurors in criminal trials, this trend has not been studied in the civil commitment process. Thus, this thesis will discuss some of the factors that might affect jury recommendations for civil commitment. To perform the study, vignettes were given to participants, who were then asked to make judgments regarding the three standards of commitment, as well as the need for involuntary treatment. They were also asked about their beliefs surrounding mental health. The characters in the vignettes differed in race and diagnosis, while other factors were held constant. The three racial groups used were Caucasians, Hispanics, and African Americans. The three diagnostic groups used were schizophrenia, depression, or Alcohol and Other Drug Addictions (AODA) issues. The sample of participants consisted of 93 people ranging in age from 18 to 77. The sample was largely Caucasian, but did include 13% minorities. There was a large range of political affiliation, as well as educational span ranging from less than high school thru graduate degree. Based on research in the Criminal Justice system, it was expected that minority characters would be recommended for treatment more frequently than those who are white. It was also expected that characters portrayed as schizophrenic would be most likely to be recommended for involuntary treatment, followed by depression, and lastly AODA issues, even though their level of functioning was held constant. A main effect was found for diagnosis, with schizophrenics being found most in need of involuntary treatment followed by the AODA character, and followed lastly by the depressed character. However, contrary to expectations, no effect was found for race, nor was a significant interaction found. These findings may have implications for the civil commitment process and may shed light on the information jurors attend to in making their decisions.


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