Do You Want My Opinion or My Tacit Agreement?

May 30th, 2023|

Many people ask me for my opinions. My opinions are solicited by family, friends, and clients, and sometimes, even by strangers. I would go as far as saying I am a professional giver of opinions, in that my clients retain me primarily for my expert opinions and advice about their high stakes lawsuits. Sometimes, however, my friends ask me for my opinion when, in reality, they want me to do nothing more than give my tacit agreement to a course of action upon which they have already decided to embark. A recent experience with a childhood friend brought this,

Does victim crying while testifying affect verdicts in rape cases? | Online Jury Research Update

May 26th, 2023|

When recounting traumatic events, victims often cry, although not always in the courtroom. In the courtroom, some victims are stoic while others are emotional. The 'emotional witness effect' is a phenomenon in which listeners are affected by the emotional manner in which an alleged victim recounts what happened to them. For example, distressed female rape complainants (i.e., those crying or sobbing) are perceived by psychologists, police officers, judges and students to be more credible than controlled or neutral rape complainants (Nitschke et al., 2019). Do jurors similarly find alleged rape victims who cry to be more credible? do jurors respond

Assessing Your Jurors’ Politics? Look for Conspiracy Thinking As Well

May 25th, 2023|

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm: When it comes to sizing up our potential jurors, we are used to looking at their politics. Both conventional wisdom and practical experience suggest that conservatives are more likely to prioritize individual responsibility while liberals focus on social responsibility. That means that in many cases — not all, but many — political leaning plays a role in how a juror might assign responsibility in a civil case. Increasingly, though, there is a need to look beyond the liberal/conservative binary to see meaningful divisions within the two sides of the spectrum. Particularly among Republicans, there is an

Damages Defense: Carefully Set the Smaller Anchor

May 22nd, 2023|

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm: Here’s one area where there’s a conflict between social science and practical intuitions: Should the civil defendant offer their own damages number to anchor jurors on a lower amount? The social science on the subject is relatively clear: If the jurors get to the point of awarding damages, a lower number from the defense will help keep the award lower than it otherwise would have been. But in practice, defendants can be reluctant to offer that number, fearing that it will look like the defense concedes the point that damages should be awarded, with the alternate

12 Digits

May 18th, 2023|

Many of the posts we write are inspired by recent events, though our list has many titles we created as far back as 10 years ago at the inception of the Magnus Insights, 2’s Company blog. I’ll admit that there are many DF titles I haven’t written yet. I’m writing today, while smiling a bit, at one of the minor details that have a major impact in our work, that is, calculators. That’s right, this post is about calculators. I titled this post “12 Digits,” because 8 is not enough (despite that it was on the 1970s era TV show).

Take a Note from Ed Sheeran: Show, Don’t Just Tell

May 17th, 2023|

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm: After threatening that me might end his musical career if the jury went the other way, popular musician Ed Sheeran can now continue his line of work. According to a federal jury in New York earlier this month, Sheeran’s 2014 song “Thinking Out Loud” did not copy the musical structure of Marvin Gaye’s 1973 classic, “Let’s Get It On.” As one of the most highly-watched artistic copyright cases in many years, the trial was broadly seen as setting the course for other cases. Sheeran, however, succeeded in convincing the jury that his song was made up of “common building

Treat Your Demonstratives as Cake, Not Icing

May 11th, 2023|

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm: The importance of including graphics when presenting to a judge or jury is understood these days. Still, I think the design and execution of these graphics can be too often treated as an afterthought. Instead of using a timeline as a central and fundamental way of structuring the case for fact-finders, it is developed at the end and treated as a plug-and-play addition to an already-developed trial story. You might create a diagram showing the key case concepts and relationships as a way to visually spruce up the verbal presentation instead of using it as a

Which emotions hurt and help witness trustworthiness? | Online Jury Research Update

May 3rd, 2023|

When testifying, witnesses can sound sad, angry, fearful, disgusted, happy or neutral, and exhibited emotions affect jurors' judgments of witness trustworthiness. Emotions affect acoustic properties of voices (e.g., pitch, breathiness, hoarseness, resonance, speech rate, etc.). Researchers find that speakers exhibiting varying acoustic properties to be differentially trustworthy. Voices also carry stereotypical information about a speaker's race and gender, both of which also can impact perceptions of trustworthiness even when no visual cues are available. Forde-Smith and Feinberg (2023) investigated the credibility of witnesses of different races and genders when conveying a variety of emotions. The researchers had 548 mock jurors

The Ability to Understand Others’ Perspectives

May 2nd, 2023|

I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion. This includes me. When conducting mock jury or other social psychological research, I almost always encourage the open expression of differing views by informing our research participants that “There are no wrong opinions or points of view.” I know some people who enjoy verbal sparring, however, I am not among them. I was brought up by loving parents who allowed me the freedom of sharing my point of view. They did not try to dissuade me, scold me, or tell me my opinion was wrong on the numerous occasions it differed from

Negligence Cases: Make Mental State Part of the Story

May 1st, 2023|

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm: Negligence is supposed to be a determination of action, not intention. Looking only at outward conduct, jurors in a negligence case are typically asked to decide whether an act, or a failure to act, was reasonable, and in line with what reasonable peers would have done in a similar situation. The intention or mental state of the actor is not supposed to matter in that determination. At least, that is what the law says. But among those who study jurors and other decision-makers, there has been a strong suspicion that this ignores a practical reality. Jurors