Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Tina M. Zottoli

Committee Member

Jeremy Fox

Committee Member

Christopher King


In the United States, approximately 95% of all criminal cases end in guilty pleas. Many scholars are concerned with plea bargaining’s potential to be coercive, and cite data on wrongful convictions as proof that an innocence problem exists. Estimates of false guilty pleas may range between 18 and 27 percent, though a true base rate is difficult to establish. Using vignettes, I examined the effects of guilt, trial penalty and plea discount size on plea decisions of adult participants recruited online through TurkPrime. Guilt was the strongest predictor of plea acceptance, but guilty plea rates increased for all participants with increasing discount and decreasing trial penalty, and the rate of false guilty pleas reached 18% in some conditions. Results are discussed in the context of the psychology of human decision making and in terms of their implications for public policy.

File Format


Included in

Psychology Commons