I’ve been wanting to write a post about this subject for a while now and it hasn’t happened. Yet, the news has continued to provide prime examples in the past few months and years of a natural tendency: our tendency to presume guilt instead of innocence. A few quick examples: the Casey Anthony trial, the Treyvon Martin shooting, the Michael Jackson cases. In the near future, I plan to put that fancy psychology degree I have to use and talk about something other than just law…gasp! I know, I know…it’s been too long since I did that.
Well now’s the time for answers. In the face of a legal system that requires us to presume defendants are innocent, our natural reaction is to make snap judgments of guilt. Why is this? What about our psychological underpinnings drives the phenomenon? Is it just a classic case of heuristics, confirmation bias, and the like…or is there more going on here?