Emotion perception in the courtroom

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Chapter 11 endnote 37, from How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context is:

Using our Western cultural concepts of remorse, we perceived [Tsarnaev] as coolly indifferent or full of bravado, rather than stoic. So it’s possible that our guesswork, in this case, produced a cultural misunderstanding in the courtroom, ultimately leading to his death sentence.

As another example, imagine you are on the jury in a different murder trial, where the defendant smiled through most of the proceedings, even after he was convicted. You might reasonably think that the defendant was remorseless, an emotional monster. But what if he was intellectually disabled in some way? Maybe the defendant thinks smiling is friendly and he wants the jurors to like him.[1] See Atkins v. Virginia, where a mentally impaired defendant was exempted from the death penalty because “their demeanor may create an unwarranted impression of lack of remorse for their crimes.”[2] For more on remorse and its perception, see work by Bandes.[3]


Notes on the Notes

  1. Amanda Pustilnik, personal communication
  2. Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304, 320-321 (2002); cited in Bandes, Susan A. 2014. "Remorse, Demeanor, and the Consequences of Misinterpretation." Journal of Law, Religion and State 3 (2): 170-199.
  3. Bandes, A. 2014. "Remorse, Demeanor, and the Consequences of Misinterpretation: The Limits of Law as a Window into the Soul." Journal of Law, Religion and State, 3: 170-199.