File(s) under permanent embargo

Reason: Restricted by author. A copy can be supplied under Section 51(2) of the Australian Copyright Act 1968 by submitting a document delivery request through your library or by emailing

Asking the right questions: examining the utility of fact based jury directions using a simulated trial paradigm

posted on 27.02.2017, 00:03 authored by Spivak, Benjamin Luke
No studies to date have considered the effectiveness of fact-based directions relative to other enhanced forms of directions in terms of comprehension and application of legal principles. Furthermore, little is known about the effects of fact-based directions in realistic simulated jury settings. The research project sought to compare four forms of instructions: (1) standard; (2) plain language; (3) checklist; (4) fact-based in terms of comprehension and application of legal concepts. The research project utilised a sample of 1007 adults who had been called for jury service in the Victorian County and Supreme Courts over a twelve month period. Participants were tested in groups of 10-12 and engaged in a realistic one day simulated trial including deliberation. Testing of participants occurred at three time points- pre-trial, pre-deliberation, and where time allowed, at post-deliberation. Results indicated that comprehension of directions was significantly higher in all modified (plain language, checklist, fact-based) instructional types compared to standard instructions at the pre-deliberation stage of trial. Findings around application of law were mixed. At the pre-deliberation stage, participants receiving fact-based instructions had significantly higher scores on true/false application questions compared with participants in other conditions at the pre-deliberation stage, whereas there were no significant differences between conditions for multiple choice application. However, opportunistic testing of a limited number of participants following deliberation revealed that participants in the fact-based condition had significantly higher scores on multiple-choice application items. The results support previous findings on plain language instructions and comprehension and support the use of revisions such as checklists, question-trails and restructuring of the charge more generally. Participants provided with fact-based directions scored better on tests of comprehension than participants receiving standard instructions. Participants provided with fact-based directions also scored significantly higher on tests of true/false application than participants in all other conditions. Finally, instruction type was found to interact with deliberation, with participants receiving fact-based directions scoring far higher than participants in all other conditions at the post-deliberation


Principal supervisor

James Ogloff

Additional supervisor 1

Jonathan Clough

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Psychological sciences

Campus location



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences