How Biased Are Slow-Motion Replays?

In an age when acts of violence are caught on video and uploaded to the internet within minutes, slow-motion replays in courtrooms might be biasing juries, according to new research by Zachary Burns, an associate professor of organizational behavior who studies the psychology of judgment and decision making.

Burns’ study found that watching a slow-motion video of a shooting during an armed robbery made viewers more likely to see the act as premeditated and more likely to convict the accused of first-degree murder.

The findings made headlines in the Los Angeles Times and BBC News for their potential to affect an untold number of cases centering around the intentions of those who commit a violent act.

Burns and fellow researchers from the University of Virginia and University of Chicago published the results in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in August.

“Judges have an extremely difficult job in deciding what evidence should be allowed in trials,” he says. “We hope that the research provides some empirical evidence that judges can consider when making this decision.”

His personal hope is that slow-motion evidence never be shown in trials where the main question is of someone’s intention.

“But that should still be decided by judges on a case-by-case basis,” Burns says.