Psychologists and Lawyers See the World Differently

January 17th, 2023|

As I have stated in previous posts, I have had an interesting career, primarily because I have spent almost all of my professional life working with attorneys instead of with colleagues. Furthermore, my definition of “colleague” is narrow, in that I consider only other social psychologists as colleagues. The field of psychology is large, with most psychologists working in clinical practice and relatively few defining themselves as social psychologists or social/personality psychologists. Even larger than the profession of psychology is the legal profession. As a point of comparison, there are over 133,000 members of the American Psychological Association, while the

Debias on Hindsight

January 17th, 2023|

By Dr. Ken Broda Bahm: Defendants in civil cases are often plagued by the reality that the “should have,” “could have,” and “would have,” aspects of the reasonable care all exist in the realm of hindsight. The tendency to believe that negative consequences are more knowable and preventable when viewed through the lens of a known outcome is a very human tendency, and hindsight bias is an exceedingly common factor in legal cases. The test that should have been run, the precaution that could have been spelled out, the design that would have worked better, all create a “creeping determinism”

Get Your Jurors to Take the Tougher Path

January 12th, 2023|

By Dr. Ken Broda Bahm: For anyone analyzing audiences and preparing persuasive messages, it helps to know about what is called “System 1” and “System 2” thinking.  When we make decisions that are pretty quick and automatic, with little reflection, cognitive work, or even necessarily voluntary awareness, then we are using System 1. When we take the other path of making decisions based on careful mental efforts, including a consideration of evidence, reasons, and implications, then we are using System 2. Of course, there is a spectrum between the two, but these are useful polarities in thinking about how we

Jury is Greater than the Sum of Individual Juror Parts

January 10th, 2023|

Social psychology is the scientific study of how people behave in groups. There are many areas of research within social psychology, however, they share a common focus on how individual and group interactions are shaped by one’s external environment, specifically, other people. Numerous research findings have demonstrated the impact of the group on individual performance, with some studies revealing a positive effect and others, a negative effect. Positive effects of a group on individuals include satisfying our need for belonging, obtaining information, and defining social identity. Negative effects of groups on their members include groupthink, social loafing, and mob behavior.

Save the Strikes: ASTC’s Research-Based Case Against Prohibiting the Peremptories

January 9th, 2023|

By Dr. Ken Broda Bahm: The last few years have seen a societal turn toward identifying and addressing systems that institutionalize discrimination based on race, gender, and other demographic traits. That attention is obviously a good thing. But one issue that has been caught up in that trend has been a call to eliminate the peremptory strike in civil and/or criminal cases. Several states are looking at the move, and Arizona has been the first in actually eliminating peremptory strikes in all jury trials. The argument has been that, because peremptory challenges have been used to discriminate, and because the

Find and Eliminate the “Stop/Don’t Stop” Moments in your Case Presentation

January 5th, 2023|

A funny Instagram post caught my eye the other day – a STOP sign with another sign immediately under it that said, “No stopping any time.” While surly there’s an explanation or with some thought, one could figure it out, it is still a bit of a head scratcher. It also made me think about all the times that jurors receive either contradictory or confusing messages during trial. With years of experience and knowledge about extremely nuanced details of the law, attorneys either do not notice or are not troubled by contradiction and confusion since those don’t really exist in

Ask What Jurors Are Trying to Do with Damages

January 5th, 2023|

By Dr. Ken Broda Bahm: When jurors are awarding damages in a civil case, the law looks at what they’re doing in a binary way: They are either compensating the plaintiff for what they have lost, or they are awarding additional amounts to set an example. In short, anything outside of “making the plaintiff whole” is “punitive.” But jurors don’t necessarily look at it within those strict categories. Motivations to punish or “send a message” can often drive discussions of compensatory damages, especially in non-economic categories where jurors don’t have any concrete guideposts. More generally, jurors commonly want the damages

Beware of Junk Science in Disguise

January 2nd, 2023|

By Dr. Ken Broda Bahm: Our trial system is designed to restrict the factfinders’ information to that which is relevant, probative, and sound. When it comes to expert testimony, it is the responsibility of trial judge to ensure that the testimony has a reliable foundation. But in the case of science, particularly social science, that can be a challenge. I have written in the past on research showing that jurors are only partially effective at understanding basic research flaws and discounting dubious science, and judges are not necessarily better. That means that advocates often need to be the last line of defense

Constant Giving Psychology Away

December 20th, 2022|

I am honored to have been a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) since the early 1980s, when I was in graduate school. The APA is the largest professional organization for psychologists in the world, with over 133,000 members. On the day I am writing this post, I have renewed my APA membership for next year, thus, it is interesting for this topic to be next on my list of topics about which to write. The APA supports all kinds of psychologists, from clinicians, to academics, to people who, like me, work in applied settings. Although we are a

Reconsider the ‘Rambo Style’ in the Courtroom

December 19th, 2022|

By Dr. Ken Broda Bahm: In the vast majority of my experiences with the legal system, attorneys and parties are painstakingly civil, as a rule. However, in my two most recent trials, there have been notable exceptions to this rule. In one case, opposing counsel, after making discovery a miserable process for both counsel and witnesses, could not resist directly insulting our attorney and calling our clients “liars” at every opportunity. In the other case, counsel was well-behaved, but the parties at the other side’s table could not resist making faces, muttering to each other, and in a couple of