Source of the following article Persuasive Litigator.

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:

Generalizing based on age, generation, and other demographics can be hit and miss. And in jury selection, a reliance on these factors can be more miss than hit. In other words, any strike decision-rule that begins with “Millennials are…” is likely to experience nearly as many exceptions as confirmations. At the same time, there can be long-term trends that are worth paying attention to, not for the purpose of analyzing any one individual, but for the purpose of taking note of the ways the task of persuasion might be changing. And this is particularly the case when adapting to one generation carries the benefit of helping you out with other generations as well.

I believe that is the case with Millennials, those who reached adulthood in the early 21st century. They have grown up in a visually rich environment, with their news, entertainment, and social interaction delivered in pictures and video. They are used to receiving information in that mode. Does that expectation and preference for the visual extend to the courtroom? We believe the answer is “Yes.” Recently, we reanalyzed data that we collected several years ago. In an experiment, the Persuasion Strategies Visual Persuasion Study, we compared the effectiveness of various modes of demonstrative exhibit use in an opening statement. Looking back, we wondered if the age of the participants made a difference. We found that it did, and in the expected direction. The general tendency for participants to prefer the continuous rather than occasional use of graphics, something we called “immersive graphics,” was especially strong among Millennials.

The Data

Persuasion Strategies randomly recruited more than one thousand jury-qualified and demographically-diverse participants to serve as mock jurors in an on-line experiment in late 2010 and early 2011. The experiment kept the actual content of a defense opening statement constant while varying the visual tools used to reinforce that message. The study results showed that the use of visual demonstrative exhibits led to greater comprehension and improved the credibility of the side that used the graphics. This was particularly the case when the defense employed graphics throughout the message (e.g., via a PowerPoint presentation) instead of using them occasionally.

That advantage cut across age groups, but once we reanalyzed the data, we realized that the effect was particularly pronounced in the Millennial age group, those aged 18 to 24 at the time we conducted the study.

This chart highlights the advantage as it relates to one comprehension item:

Note that not all of these differences are statistically significant — e.g., the “no graphics” condition was not reliably better for Generation X or Baby Boomers. The differences that did stand out as significant are that a) Overall, the immersive graphics worked better, and b) the Millennials enjoyed a greater advantage than other age groups.

The Implication: Use Graphics in an Immersive Style, and Not Just for Millennials

We believe that the graphic-immersion condition, or the continuous use of graphics as a constant accompaniment to the verbal message, carried an advantage because the jurors did not have to switch modes. They did not need to shift from listening, to looking, and back to listening again, but were instead able to process visually and aurally throughout the presentation. That suggests that, for moments in court that can be planned out — moments like opening, closing, and direct examination of an expert — you should develop a visual message that you expect to use for the duration.

To do that well, it helps to approach your visual messages not as an afterthought, but as an integral component of the message. Instead of developing your verbal message first and then thinking, “Okay, now where do I want to use demonstrative exhibits?” it helps if you are hatching those visual ideas at the same time that you’re developing your verbal ideas. Jurors will process the two tracks together, so there’s an advantage to creating them that way. Even if you feel that you don’t strictly need a demonstrative exhibit, you will still get a demonstrated advantage if you find a way to make it visual.

And that advantage isn’t just with youngsters. Looking across all age groups, the immersive-graphics condition carried a statistically significant advantage when it comes to comprehension of the message as well as the credibility of the attorney. It was not a huge advantage: You won’t double your chances of persuasion, but you will have an edge, which is what good advocates are always looking for.

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Other Posts on Generational Differences: 

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Image credit: 123rf.com, used under license, edited