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Impression Management, part 2: Snap Judgments

March 22nd, 2018|

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (January 31, 2018, page A9), “The Mistakes You Make in a Meeting’s First Milliseconds,” by Sue Shellenbarger, prompted me to think about first impressions in the courtroom. And, particularly, the jurors’ first impressions of the attorneys. While the attorneys’ first impressions of jurors and witnesses, both fact and expert, are important, my first thoughts were how the jurors perceive the attorneys. As the article points out, impressions are often formed quickly, as soon as people see each other for the first time. In many situations, this occurs when a person enters a

The New World Order

March 8th, 2018|

Melissa and I have attempted do two things consistently with the posts we write. First, we try to be tactful, and not insult anyone. Second, we strive to be timeless, not dating our posts by the topic. This post breaks the 2nd rule, but hopefully, not the first objective. The topic is what some have identified as a change in the global order that began with the campaign and election of our current president, Donald J. Trump. Though U.S. politics have been polarized to some degrees for many election cycles, there is no denying that the current level of polarization

Bargaining and negotiation

March 6th, 2018|

Bargaining is a social psychological phenomenon that I observe in every mock jury research project I conduct. Rarely do the mock jurors reach unanimity without considerable back and forth discussions. According to social psychological theory, bargaining involves situations with the following characteristics: (1) the parties involved have divergent interests; (2) some form of communication by the parties is possible; and (3) the parties are able to make concessions. When a group of citizens is formed to comprise a jury of 6, 12, or another size, the 3 conditions listed above converge and ultimately, a verdict is reached. (Of course, when

Sleeping Beauties

March 1st, 2018|

The role of a trial juror is critical in American justice and yet, jurors are often criticized collectively by many trial lawyers and the general public. Being a juror is a difficult job; sitting in judgment of your fellow citizens can be very stressful, and trials are not nearly as exciting and fast paced as they seem on TV or in movies. They just aren’t! Never have been, never will be. But, in a world where attention spans are shorter than ever, new challenges emerge. Keeping the jurors “entertained”, and therefore, awake, has never been more important. A December 2017


February 27th, 2018|

Social psychologists often refer to the “3 Cs of Attitude Change”: conformity, consistency, and commitment. Previous posts have discussed the first two factors, conformity and consistency, and the current post will address the third factor, commitment. Commitment is the process by which people take a stand for or against a certain issue. Commitment to an attitude can be private or public, with private attitudes being more amenable to change than those expressed in a public forum. When someone is committed to a position, it usually means he/she has: made a public statement about the position; taken action consistent with the

Reminder: Juries are Groups, Jurors are Individuals

February 8th, 2018|

So, the reader is probably thinking “duh, right, tell me something I didn’t know.” And, I agree, this should be obvious. Except when it isn’t. The beginning of a trial includes voir dire – asking questions of individuals – to determine which ones the attorney wants to include, or more accurately, exclude from a jury. But, verdicts are not 6 or 12 individual decisions, they are 1 decision, made by 1 jury/group. As anyone who has ever watched a mock jury deliberate knows, getting those 6 or 12 individuals to agree requires compromise. Someone, or several someones, will often have

Defensive attribution

February 6th, 2018|

Defensive attribution has been widely researched by social psychologists since the 1960s. Defensive attribution is the bias, present in most people, that leads to blaming a victim of misfortune for his/her role in the misfortune. Among the first research studies on the topic of defensive attribution was a study that found accident victims were perceived as more responsible for the accident when their injuries were more serious than when they were minimal. Experimenters presented the facts of an accident to research participants, varying only whether the victim’s injuries were minor or serious. Although, at the time, the results were surprising

A Numbers Game

February 1st, 2018|

It happened last week, as it has many times before. “It,” in this case, is the random outcome of a mock jury project that surprises the clients most of all. The scenario was as follows: we were engaged to conduct mock jury research using 4 panels of mock jurors to deliberate to a verdict. The arrangement involved a group of people who were convened in the morning and another group in the afternoon. Each group heard the case presentation, testimony of witnesses, received jury instructions and were then divided into 2 panels to deliberate. So, 4 panels, 4 verdicts total

Impression management

January 30th, 2018|

In this series of posts, I will discuss social psychological concepts that operate in everyday life, as well as within the context of my work as a litigation/trial consultant. Some of the concepts I will cover have become well known among laypersons, that is, people who do not have an advanced degree in psychology, while others are known primarily among my colleagues. The first topic I will review is impression management. Impression management was defined in the early 1970s to explain the ways in which most people are motivated to appear consistent, reliable, and trustworthy to others. People are socialized,

Buddy Payne

January 25th, 2018|

We’ve met some wonderful and interesting people in our years working with trial lawyers. One of those was R.W. Payne, Jr., better known as Buddy. Buddy was a true southern gentleman, hailing from North Carolina, then Virginia. He took control of the room when he entered, walking with the swagger of the former Marine and former professional football player he was. Melissa and I first got to know Buddy not long after we moved to south Florida in 1991. He was a client of the trial consulting firm where we worked before starting Magnus. Buddy, and his firm, were legends