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Simple Jury Persuasion: I’m pointing at the one in the middle

Wednesday, June 6, 2012
posted by Rita Handrich

On the old game show, Let’s Make a Deal, Monty Hall invited contestants to choose between Door Number 1, Door Number 2 and Door Number 3. Only one door has a good prize behind it. Endless debates among people who appear to have very little to do have addressed the best door to pick.

New research tells us that our tendency is to prefer the door in the middle: Door Number 2. We don’t really care what’s behind the curtain for the purposes of litigation advocacy. We just want to know which one viewers like best. And it’s the middle one.

Another study compared the use of arrows and directional symbols to the impact of a pointing finger or directionally gazing eyes. Guess which worked more often? The human ones–the finger and the eyes.

These are complex studies but simple findings. Our guess is they offer important information for the design of visual evidence.

Our attention is often drawn to the center.

And we pay more attention to what the researchers call “biological cues”–a pointing finger and directionally focused eyes–as we make decisions about what to examine in our environment.

While a pointing finger or eyes may seem more casual than a professionally designed graphic using arrows and directional symbols–it may also be more effective with the viewer. We tend to say that whatever the conflict that has initiated the litigation–ultimately it’s always about people. This research would say that’s true with visual evidence as well. Make it more human (or more ‘biological’ as the researchers would say). Jurors will notice.

Rodway, P., Schepman, A., & Lambert, J. (2012). Preferring the One in the Middle: Further Evidence for the Centre-stage Effect Applied Cognitive Psychology, 26 (2), 215-222 DOI: 10.1002/acp.1812

Nicola J. Gregory, & Timothy L. Hodgson (2012). Giving subjects the eye and showing them the finger: Sociobiological cues and saccade generation in the anti-saccade task. Perception, 41 (2)

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