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Make Your Opening (Sort of) Like a Closing: A Review of Representative Schiff’s Russia-Election Hearing Introduction

March 23rd, 2017|

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:  Well, it has been yet another fascinating week for people like me who are interested in political communication. This week, Congress kicked off hearings dealing with some explosive charges regarding a foreign country's influence on our election, and possible coordination with a political campaign. On Monday, Adam B. Schiff, who represents California's 28th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives and is a ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, provided a compelling introduction when opening the hearings looking at contacts between President Trump's campaign and Russian officials.  As I watched his remarks (video

To Address Implicit Bias, Rely on Rules Not Standards

March 20th, 2017|

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:  In the first of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean movies, the heroine of the story is demanding to be taken back to shore and invoking something called "The Pirate Code" to make her case. The pirate, Captain Barbossa, responds:  First, your return to shore was not part of our negotiations nor our agreement so I must do nothing. And secondly, you must be a pirate for the pirate's code to apply and you're not. And thirdly, the code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules. Welcome aboard the Black Pearl, Miss Turner.  And that's the failed

Let Them Own It

March 16th, 2017|

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:  I have this theory, and because it is mine, I believe it. That, in a nutshell, is the explanation of a new and unique bias that has recently been demonstrated by social science researchers. The bias is called, "Spontaneous Preference for Own Theories," or SPOT for short, and the explanation is pretty much contained in the name: If we take a theory to be our own, then we will tend to prefer it automatically. That bias has some close cousins in the cognitive world: The "Endowment Effect" is the tendency to value what it ours, "Confirmation Bias"

Redefine Race

March 13th, 2017|

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:  The racial composition is probably one of the first things we notice when venire members file in before jury selection. When recruiting for a mock trial, we will try to match the composition of the venue. Along with other demographics, race is not nearly as predictive as some might think. As a result, race is not used by trial consultants nearly as much as some critics of the field would think. Still race is part of the overall picture of knowing your trial venue, a salient aspect of one's lived experience; and race is changing. That occurred to me at a recent mock trial

Keep Your Trial Consultant (a Little Bit) in the Dark

March 9th, 2017|

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:  I had one important early experience in trial consulting that I've kept in my head over the years. It was actually on my first job after moving to Persuasion Strategies many years ago. Attorneys we knew were working with a very large national litigation consulting group in hosting a mock trial. The client wanted to go with the very large firm, but the attorneys we knew wanted a consultant from our team to be on-site, just to provide some feedback. So I came to watch the mock trial and to share my thoughts. I had zero knowledge of the

Meet Your Skeptics Where They Live

March 6th, 2017|

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:  Have you ever found yourself in an argument where the other side just keeps digging in deeper? Instead of conceding, agreeing, or even just softening their stance, they're becoming even more committed to a position that (you think) you have shown to be incorrect? The more facts and reasons you give, the harder they commit to a contrary position. If you've ever found yourself in that position, then congratulations: You've learned one of the first principles of human psychology. We want to believe that reasons and evidence work, and when someone sees that their beliefs are

Keep Handwriting Your Notes

March 2nd, 2017|

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:  At a time when we are surrounded by keyboards and tablets, the act of handwriting notes with actual pen and paper can seem like an anachronism. Even the writing-intensive field of law is moving away from handwriting, at least as measured by the newer generations of lawyers. For example, I frequently give talks in law schools and as I speak, I'm usually looking out into a sea of opened laptops as the students listen and type...or maybe just type. There are some advantages to the laptop as a note-taking device, of course. The material can be organized and

Put "Images With Impact" on Your Office Bookshelf

February 27th, 2017|

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:  A trial lawyer prepares for opening statement. All the exhibits are ready and in order, the structure is laid out, and the themes are in place. Now, let's just add in a few visuals -- a timeline and perhaps a couple of charts -- and it will be the icing on the cake, right? Wrong. In the battle for attention, influence, and retention, what jurors see will be a very big part of what they remember and use. For that reason, visual demonstrative exhibits are not something that you should just tack on after the substance of your

Witnesses: Know Your Seven Ways Out of the ‘Yes or No’ Trap

February 23rd, 2017|

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:  For an attorney taking a deposition or conducting a cross-examination in trial, there is one key word that describes that attorney's strategy: control. The questioning attorney wants, maybe needs, to control the witness in order to build useful testimony in a deposition or to highlight useful testimony in trial cross-examination. The more the witness is talking, the less control the attorney has. So there is a preference for leading questions that just call for a "Yes" or a "No." After all, the attorney has a lot more control when the witness is just affirming or denying the

Don’t Fear the Reptile

February 20th, 2017|

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:  Take the Reptile seriously, but don't fear it. The en vogue strategic choice of the plaintiffs' bar, the idea that trial persuasion can be leveraged by careful and targeted attention to the fear impulse of the so-called "reptilian brain," (Keenan & Ball, 2009) is an idea that, regardless of its scientific foundation, carries a practical utility in encouraging advocates to focus on the central role of motivation. So in saying, "Don't fear the Reptile," what I am saying, in addition to giving a nod to one of the most cowbell-intensive songs in the classic rock canon, Blue Öyster Cult's "Don't Fear (the