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Simple Jury Persuasion: You may want to disagree with this post

Friday, March 26, 2010
posted by Rita Handrich

Here’s a simple and powerful persuasion strategy. Although somewhat paradoxical, giving people the freedom to resist your message appears to undermine their wish to do so. You can think of it as the anti-Borg message. Rather than “resistance is futile”, your message is “you may wish to resist”. Rather than crushing them, you invite them in to hear your message with the understanding they may choose to disagree.

Why would we suggest such a thing? We’ve known for decades that giving people the ‘freedom to resist’ often results in them becoming putty in your hands (Brohm, 1966). More recently, Linn & Knowles (2002) were able to substantively increase the appeal of a persuasive message by simply commenting that the recipient of the message would likely want to disagree with it!

Here’s how this might look—

Expert witness: “This might seem like it doesn’t make sense and people might want to disagree with it up front. Here’s how it works…”

Opening statement: “You may find you want to disagree with our side. We ask that you listen to the whole story and then choose which side you agree with—we think our side is harder to explain but ultimately correct.”

Closing statement: “You may disagree with what my client chose to do. His belief was that it was the only valid choice at that point in time.”

Your task is simply to strategically weave the tactic in to your case narrative (very selectively) and thereby reduce juror resistance to your story. It is amazingly simple. We like that.

Brohm, J. (1966). A theory of psychological reactance. New York: Academic Press.

Linn, J. and Knowles, E. (2002, May). Acknowledging target resistance in persuasive messages. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association, Chicago, Illinois.

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