Dr. Richard Wiener leads an active research team that studies the impact of law on everyday behavior, the implementation of law in the legal system, and the fit between the law and assumptions about human conduct. Professor Wiener's legal decision-making research team includes five graduate students all pursuing Ph.D.s in social psychology and either pursuing the J.D. or Master's of Legal Studies (MLS) at the UNL College of Law. The legal decision making laboratory contains a jury room equipped with video cameras, monitors, and computers with state of the art software and video technology programs. This research is funded, in part, by National Science Foundation research grants awarded to Dr. Wiener to study 1) how jurors make penalty decisions in capital murder trials and 2) the role of jury selection processes in controlling generic prejudice that potential jurors bring to trial.
Other projects involve decision making in other areas of criminal and civil law. For example, with a team of social science and law researchers from the New York Law School, the City University of New York, and the National Justice Center Dr. Wiener's team is studying the attitudinal predictors of successful re-education of debtors who filed bankruptcy motions. The Ford Foundation and the American Bar Institute have funded a new bankruptcy study examining the role of emotion in the decisions that debtors make to use their credit cards. In addition, the team has studied hospital ethics boards' end of life recommendations, decisions in negligence cases, and judgments in speech cases. Students on this research team will participate in creating taped reenactments of capital murder trials to present to mock jurors, who will determine punishment (i.e., life in prison or the death penalty) in the cases. REU fellows will assist in planning and collecting data in experiments that study how mock jurors reach penalty phase decisions. REU fellows will also participate in the team's study of generic prejudice in sexual abuse cases. REU students will learn about the psychological and legal theories that guide these studies, the technicalities of carrying out mock jury studies with and without deliberations, the unusual problems in analysis of juror and jury data, and the effective presentation of findings in oral and written formats. REU students will participate in the credit use studies and affirmative action studies which are being conducted on the Internet. Students will learn how to present and collect field data on the Internet. Finally, students will learn about policy analysis and program evaluation in the law in the debtor project. We anticipate minority undergraduates will contribute new questions and insights about the role of ethnicity in the social science and law arena.