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Simple Jury Persuasion: Graphics, Statistics and the ‘weight of the evidence’

Friday, May 20, 2011
posted by Douglas Keene

A recent infographic created by the folks at is a terrific example of the persuasiveness of visual evidence. We are fans of visual evidence and have written about the appeal several times. Your graphic doesn’t have to be starchy and technical and, in fact, it’s better if it isn’t.

The complete graphic “Sitting is Killing You” is cartoonish and memorable. It draws you in and informs and entertains you so that you remember the gist of the message. The tone is light and amusing. The message is about life and death. Your personal death.  And then comes the coup de grace.

You reach the end of the infographic and are offered the sources— Government offices. Major newspapers and journals. Medical journals. Respectable and staid entities that “must be” credible.

It’s a bit like that old trick of attorneys who walk in with a thick notebook or several paper boxes that are obviously heavy. They plunk them down on the table and then refer to them as “all the studies that support this position”. They do not name all of them. Just a few. But the weight of the boxes (and the presumed evidence) often hits the mark with at least some jurors.

So whether it’s the weight of the evidence or the weight you accrue as you sit on your butt and shorten your life—this cute and memorable infographic has lessons for us:

  1. Make your visual evidence non-threatening.
    1. What is less threatening than a cartoonish approach? And you can obviously use this for life and death issues. But you can also use it [albeit a bit more carefully] for dry and confusing high-tech issues.
  2. Carefully give credible references for your visual evidence.
    1. Your visual evidence will certainly be vetted by opposing counsel and the judge. The reason for the inclusion of references has to do with the jurors. You want the friendly graphic appearance to help jurors believe they can grasp even complex information. You want the source information so jurors know they can trust the information as credible.

It’s like being a good host. You serve up interesting and engaging information and show it to be credible for the layperson by invoking all the ‘experts’ in your reference list.

Not too many. (You want them to read it. You want it to have impact but not overload their attention.)

Not too few. (You want it to seem like there is much to support your position.)

Jurors (and likely your client) will appreciate it.

Joffe, H. (2008). The Power of Visual Material: Persuasion, Emotion and Identification Diogenes, 55 (1), 84-93 DOI: 10.1177/0392192107087919

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