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The proposed research examined the affective and cognitive processes involved in jurors’ reactions to comparative value arguments and evidence of non-statutory aggravating and mitigating circumstances in the sentencing phase of a capital trial. The experiment utilized a 2 (Permissible Victim Impact Statements: Present v. absent) x 3 (Non-Statutory Mitigating Evidence: Social Value v. Troubled Life v. Both) x 2 (Comparative Value Argument: Life v. Worth) + 1 between-groups factorial design. Participants exposed to comparative worth arguments were more likely to vote for death than those exposed to comparative life arguments. In addition, participants were differentially influenced by comparative arguments. In a series of theoretically relevant path analyses, this effect was mediated by mood, and moderated by need for affect and cognition as well as concern for victims.

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