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at Montclair State University

Welcome to the Legal Decision Making Lab at Montclair State

We study the decision-making of prosecutors, defendants and other legal actors across a range of adjudicative contexts. Our aims are to understand the human psychological factors that affect justice system outcomes and to effectively disseminate and communicate these data to policy makers. 

We are currently pursuing three interrelated lines of research.


1. Adolescents. We seek to understand how justice involved youth make legal decisions and to identify circumstances that might put them at risk for adverse outcomes (e.g., wrongful conviction). Most recently, this work has focused on potential deficits in the legal knowledge and decisional capacity of adolescents who plead guilty.


2. Guilty Pleas. These projects focus on identifying the most important system-, individual- and case- level factors that influence guilty plea decisions. An important, long-term goal this work is to develop a computational model of guilty plea decision making that can be optimized to maximize true- and minimize false- guilty pleas across various contexts (e.g., jurisdictions). Interested in sharing your own story? Watch this space for a survey link coming soon. 

3. Improving Outcomes. This area of research focuses on delivering empirically supported recommendations and tools to defense attorneys, prosecutors, and policy-makers who seek to improve justice system outcomes. We recently examined the approach to juvenile-lifer resentencing taken by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and reported on cost-savings and recidivism for the jurisdiction. You can find our juvenile-lifer project page here. 

You can read more about these research areas by clicking here

Lab News


Director:              Tina M. Zottoli, Ph.D.             


Phone:                 973-655-5204

Co-Director:      Tarika Daftary-Kapur, Ph.D.
Phone:                  973-655-4142  

Lab Location:     

Montclair State University,

1 Normal Avenue,

Dickson Hall, Room 289

Montclair, NJ 07043

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