Gender differences in the evaluation of aggravating and mitigating circumstances: the mediating role of attributional complexity*

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At the penalty phase of a capital trial, jurors endorse and weigh aggravators and mitigators. The purpose of the current studies was to examine how gender differences in attributional complexity relate to endorsements of aggravators and mitigators. In Study 1, undergraduate participants read definitions of aggravators and mitigators and rated the extent to which circumstances were aggravating or mitigating. In Study 2, a death qualified community sample read a trial summary, rated the extent to which aggravators and mitigators were present in the case, reported whether mitigators outweighed aggravators, and rendered a sentence. Results indicated that gender differences in mitigator endorsement were mediated by attributional complexity, and that gender differences in sentencing decisions were serially mediated by attributional complexity, mitigator endorsement, and aggravator and mitigator weighing.

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