As jurors in Harvey Weinstein’s criminal trial begin deliberation, the group is tasked with assessing whether the sexual acts Weinstein’s accusers have described throughout the trial amount to rape and assault.
Vanessa Bohns, associate professor of organizational behavior Cornell University’s ILR School, studies the psychology of compliance and consent. In her work, Bohns examines the dynamics of influence and power at play in the workplace.
“Jurors’ decisions will ultimately come down to whether they view Weinstein’s power and influence as something these women actively exploited for their own personal gain, or something that allowed Weinstein to exploit these women by ensuring their compliance and silence.
“A key piece of evidence jurors are likely to consider is the friendly correspondence between Weinstein and some of his accusers following the assaults—evidence the defense has argued is exculpatory, but which could alternatively be viewed as an attempt to appease someone with a great deal of power and influence.
“How jurors will interpret this evidence is unclear. Women often use friendliness as a mean of defusing uncomfortable or threatening situations. However, research shows that this friendliness is often misinterpreted by outsiders as genuine.
“Ultimately, jurors in this case will have to grapple with their own preconceptions about what rape and its aftermath really looks like.”