Link Search Menu Expand Document

Simulation Versus Vignette Study

This page contains the script dialogue of scenario 1, the hit-and-run scenario, and the script dialogue of scenario 2, the theft scenario. Users would start from the beginning of either scenario 1 or 2 once they finish creating their avatar from the avatar customization page.

To jump to scenario 2, click here.

> Key/Legend

To read these scripts and understand the meaning behind the formatting, here is a guide to how they are formatted.
  • Bolded text denotes areas where researchers may want to easily make changes.
  • Italicized text denotes commentary as well as scene descriptions.
  • “@Name;” denotes the first name of the participant. This name is typically one entered through a form on the previous page.
  • “>>” denotes a pause at a specific point of text within the simulation and would require pressing the respective button in order to progress.
  • bullet points denotes text that appears on the screen in the dialogue box at a particular point in the simulation.

Upon finishing customizing their avatar on the avatar customization screen and pressing the “Next” button, the user will be presented with a mix of one or both of the following simulations:

Simulation 1 - Hit & Run

The simulation opens with a black background and the following white text on the screen:

At 6 PM

June 26th

An incident occurs.

The avatar approaches a vehicle, opens the door, and climbs inside. They then put the key in the ignition and appear to be driving the car. The avatar expresses a surprised face as a black background fades in with the following white text appearing:

Two weeks later…

You are served a summons.

A document over an envelope then appears on the screen with some text that is clearly shown on it:

Summons to Appear in Court

The document the participant receives (which appears immediately after the crime does or does not occur) should say something to the effect of “Summons for Initial Appearance” (not trial date)… After the document is presented, the participant’s avatar appears in Court before a district court judge and a prosecutor.

PROSECUTOR:

  • Good afternoon, my name is Mr. Clark and I will be prosecuting this case on behalf of the State of Massachusetts, Your Honor. »

DISTRICT COURT JUDGE:

  • Good afternoon. What is the nature of this case, Mr. Clark? »

PROSECUTOR:

  • @Name; is accused of being involved in a hit-and-run occurring around 6PM on the 26th day of June in the year 2019. »

  • In accordance with state law, a hit-and-run occurs when the operator of a motor vehicle damages public or private property, and the operator fails to report it. »

  • According to the information provided in the police report, there was property damage exceeding $1,000, which resulted from a collision in a store parking lot. The victim’s car was legally parked within the lines of the space. »

  • There is security footage provided by the owner of the business where the accident occurred that shows a car with a plate number registered to @Name; appearing to come in contact with the victim’s car. »

Grainy security footage shows the avatar’s car pull out of the parking lot from an almost-bird’s-eye-view, pause for a short moment, and then driving away out of the view of the camera. The victim’s car could have had contact with another car in the parking lot as it was pulling out.

  • Although the impact might look minor, according to a quote from the victim’s auto body repair shop, the damage to the body was significant. »

  • Thus, according to statute, failure of @Name; to stop and check the status of the other vehicle constitutes a hit-and-run. The security footage appears to show @Name;’s car striking a vehicle and then failing to check for or report damages. »

  • This is a textbook hit and run, which is considered a serious misdemeanor punishable by significant fines and/or time in jail. »

  • We request a court date be set by the State as soon as it is possible.»

DISTRICT COURT JUDGE:

  • @Name;, you are being charged with leaving the scene of an accident involving property damage. »

  • You have the right to request the appointment of counsel if you cannot afford counsel; the right to not make a statement; and the right to a jury trial, judgment, and sentencing before a district judge. »

  • At this time, you will be held until counsel has been assigned to you, which will occur within the next 48 hours. »

  • It is so ordered. »

Participant avatar is flashed to a jail cell, where they are shown thinking to themselves with their eyes closed and arms crossed.

AVATAR:

  • I can’t believe this is happening. I think I remember the day Mr. Clark is referring to… »

The flashback sequence begins where the avatar sticks their key into the ignition of their car and the sequence extends beyond the avatar’s same surprised reaction from the beginning of the simulation.

Here, the simulation shows two different sequences depending on whether the avatar is guilty or innocent.


If innocent:

At this point in the flashback, the avatar is behind the steering wheel of their car, thinking:

AVATAR:

  • Oh!

The rearview mirror is shown, viewing the taillight of an adjacent car.

  • Oh! I’m close to that car, I better be careful when I pull out.

The avatar turns their head around, and then it is shown that the avatar also turns the steering wheel as well.

  • I’m glad I was careful!

The car is then shown to drive off into the distance.

The flashback sequence ends and the simulation is cued back to the avatar in the jail cell.

AVATAR:

  • I know it was tight when I pulled out, but I didn’t actually come into contact with that person’s car. When I looked in my mirror, the other car was fine! I know I’m innocent. »

If guilty:

At this point in the flashback, the avatar is behind the steering wheel of their car, thinking:

AVATAR:

  • Did I hear something?

In the flashback, the rearview mirror is shown, viewing the taillight of an adjacent car.

The avatar’s head then turns around.

  • I think I saw a scratch but I’m not sure. what should I do?

The car drives away into the distance, showing a discrete but notable scratch on the left taillight of the car that was next to the now-empty parking spot that the avatar’s car previously was in.

The flashback sequence ends and the simulation is cued back to the avatar in the jail cell.

AVATAR:

  • I know it was tight when I pulled out, but I thought I just barely grazed that person’s car. I must have missed some of the damage I caused when pulling out. I must be guilty. »

The participant avatar appears in a room approaching a defense attorney, who is already seated at a table.

The simulation shows a defense attorney in a room with a closed door behind him. With his greeting, it is implied that the participant is no longer in the jail cell and is in a private room.

DEFENSE ATTORNEY:

  • Hello, @Name;. I am your defense attorney, Mr. Grant. Mr. Clark, the prosecutor on your case is interested in seeing whether this case could be resolved without a trial. »

  • Based on the security camera footage and the damage to the victim’s car, Mr. Clark believes that he could win this case if it goes to trial. »

  • If this case does go to trial, Mr. Clark will be seeking the maximum penalty of 12 months in jail. »

  • If you plead guilty now, saving the State the resources needed for a formal trial, Mr. Clark is prepared to recommend that the district court judge sentence you to 1 month in jail, rather than 12 months in jail. »

  • If you accept this plea offer, you will be asked to sign this form, which includes the recommendations for the lower sentencing that I just described. If you reject this plea offer and take your case to trial, Mr. Clark will pursue the maximum jail sentence of 12 months. »

  • Your signature will indicate your agreement to plead guilty and forgo your right to a trial. »

The defense attorney disappears from the screen and two buttons as well as text in the dialogue box roll out onto the screen. Awaiting the participant’s response of clicking one of the two buttons, the participant will be redirected to one of two corresponding Qualtrics surveys depending on their response to this situation.

BUTTONS:

[Plead Guilty] / [Reject Offer]

DIALOGUE:

Plead guilty in exchange for a lower sentence (1 month in jail)

Reject the offer and risk a more severe sentence if found guilty at trial (12 months in jail)

The participant must click one of the buttons and respond with Plead Guilty or Reject Offer in order to proceed in the study to the post-simulation survey questions.

Simulation 2 - Theft Scenario

The simulation opens with a black background and the following white text on the screen:

At 12 PM

November 3rd

An incident occurs.

The participant’s avatar is shown walking across the mall toward and into a sunglasses store. The avatar points out to the salesclerk a pair of sunglasses in a locked cabinet. The salesclerk removes the glasses from the cabinet and hands them to the avatar, who walks toward a mirror away from the front desk to examine them more closely.

The screen then shows the avatar’s phone in what seems like their back-pocket receiving a series of text messages as another customer approaches the salesclerk. The messages read: “Hey, where are you?,” “You’re gonna be late to the movie!!!,” “Previews are starting!!” as the avatar grabs the phone out of the pocket. The avatar turns their head towards the salesclerk talking with another customer and the screen then fades to black with the text appearing on the screen:

Two weeks later…

You are served a summons.

A document over an envelope then appears on the screen with some text that is clearly shown on it:

Summons to Appear in Court

After the document is presented, the participant’s avatar will appear in Court before a judge and a prosecutor (the Courtroom backgrounds, as well as the prosecutor, defense attorney, and judge avatar will remain the same as in the hit-and-run scenario).

PROSECUTOR:

  • Good afternoon, my name is Mr. Clark and I will be prosecuting this case on behalf of the State of Massachusetts, Your Honor. »

DISTRICT COURT JUDGE:

  • Good afternoon. What is the nature of this case, Mr. Clark? »

PROSECUTOR (talking to the district court judge):

  • @Name; is accused of committing larceny occurring around 12PM on the 3rd day of November in the year 2018. »

  • In accordance with state law, larceny occurs when one steals the property of another. »

  • According to the information provided in the police report, the defendant requested a pair of sunglasses in a locked case from the salesclerk. »

  • The salesclerk provided the sunglasses to the defendant who allegedly walked away with them in order to examine them in a mirror. »

  • Once the salesclerk’s attention was diverted to another customer, the defendant exited the store wearing the sunglasses. »

  • The salesclerk positively identified the defendant as the person who walked out of the store wearing the missing pair of sunglasses. »

  • There is also security footage provided by the owner of the shop where the theft occurred that shows the defendant walking toward the exit wearing the sunglasses. »

Grainy security footage shows the inside of the store from above the salesclerk’s perspective at a bird’s eye view. The avatar walks into the view of the camera, approaches the clerk’s desk, and turns around appearing to be talking to the salesclerk. The avatar obtains a pair of sunglasses from the salesclerk and puts it on after the clerk grabs the pair of glasses from under the desk. The avatar walks away from the desk to another table, slides the glasses over their head, and then checks their phone. The avatar then walks out beyond the view of the camera, disappearing from the security footage.

PROSECUTOR:

  • The security footage shows @Name; wearing the missing pair of designer sunglasses and heading toward the store exit. Theft of these sunglasses is a clear larceny, which, given the value of these glasses is considered a felony offense punishable by imprisonment. »

  • We request a court date be set by the State as soon as it is possible.»

JUDGE:

  • @Name;, you are being charged with larceny. »

  • You have the right to request the appointment of counsel if you cannot afford counsel; the right to not make a statement; and the right to a jury trial, judgment, and sentencing before a district judge. »

  • At this time, you will be held until counsel has been assigned to you, which will occur within the next 48 hours. »

  • It is so ordered.»

The avatar is shown to be in a jail cell, with their eyes closed, arms crossed, and appears to be thinking to themselves.

AVATAR:

  • I know I remember the day Mr. Clark is talking about … »

The flashback sequence begins. Here, the simulation shows two different sequences depending on whether the avatar is guilty or innocent.


If innocent:

A hand sets a pair of sunglasses down on a table and it is shown that the avatar walks across the lobby of the mall, in the opposite direction they arrived from the beginning of the simulation.

Back in the jail cell:

AVATAR:

  • I couldn’t return the sunglasses to the salesclerk because he was helping another customer, but I did remember to leave them on the counter before I left the store. I know I’m innocent. Someone else must have swiped them!»

If guilty:

The avatar is shown walking down the lobby of the mall with a pair of sunglasses on their head, in the opposite direction they arrived from the beginning of the simulation.

Back in the jail cell:

AVATAR:

  • I know I forgot to take those sunglasses off before I left. I should have returned them…But, I was afraid they’d think I intended to steal them. I guess I’m guilty of this!»

The participant avatar appears in a room approaching the defense attorney who is already seated at a table.

The simulation shows the defense attorney in a room with a closed door behind him. With his greeting, it is implied that the participant is no longer in the jail cell and is in a private room.

DEFENSE ATTORNEY:

  • Hello, @Name;. I am your defense attorney, Mr. Grant. Mr. Clark, the prosecutor on your case is interested in seeing whether this case could be resolved without a trial. »

  • Based on the security camera footage and testimony from the salesclerk, Mr. Clark believes that he could win if this case goes to trial. »

  • If this case does go to trial, Mr. Clark will be seeking the maximum penalty of 12 months in jail. »

  • If you plead guilty now, saving the State the resources needed for a formal trial, Mr. Clark is prepared to recommend that the district court judge sentence you to 1 month of jail rather than 12 months in jail. »

  • If you accept this plea offer, you will be asked to sign this form, which includes the recommendations for lower sentencing that I just described. If you reject this plea offer and take your case to trial, Mr. Clark will pursue the maximum jail sentence of 12 months. »

  • Your signature will indicate your agreement to plead guilty and forgo your right to a trial. »

The defense attorney disappears from the screen and two buttons as well as text in the dialogue box roll out onto the screen. Awaiting the participant’s response of clicking one of the two buttons, the participant will be redirected to one of two corresponding Qualtrics surveys depending on their response to this situation.

BUTTONS:

[Plead Guilty] / [Reject Offer]

DIALOGUE:

Plead guilty in exchange for a lower sentence (1 month in jail)

Reject the offer and risk a more severe sentence if found guilty at trial (12 months in jail)

The participant must click one of the buttons and respond with Plead Guilty or Reject Offer in order to proceed in the study to the post-simulation survey questions.


Copyright © 2021 The Plea Justice Project.