Asking the right questions: examining the efficacy of question trails as a method of Improving lay comprehension and application of legal concepts

Benjamin Spivak, James R. P. Ogloff, Jonathan Clough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The present study examines the ‘fact based’ approach to jury instructions, which embeds legal concepts in a series of logically ordered written factual questions that the jury must answer to reach a verdict. The study utilised a sample of 1007 adults called for jury service in Victoria, Australia. Four instructional types (standard, plain language, checklist, fact based) were compared on paraphrase and application measures across three time points. Results indicated that paraphrase performance was significantly lower for standard instructions compared to all other instructional types at the pre-deliberation stage. Findings around application of law were mixed. At the pre-deliberation stage, participants receiving fact based instructions had significantly higher scores on true/false application questions compared with participants in other conditions, whereas there were no significant differences between conditions for multiple-choice application. However, testing following deliberation revealed that participants in the fact-based condition had significantly higher scores on multiple-choice application items.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-456
Number of pages16
JournalPsychiatry, Psychology & Law
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2019


  • checklists
  • comprehension
  • decision-making
  • instruction
  • jury
  • question trails

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