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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 adolescents 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. A goal of 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).


3. Prosecutors. Studies in this area focus on prosecutorial decision-making and case outcomes, with an emphasis on the impact of office policies on incarceration rates, community safety and prisoner re-entry. 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 read more about our research studies by clicking here. 


The Legal Decision Making Lab


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

Get Involved!

Looking for Dr. Zottoli's Clinical Practice? Click here.

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