Simple Jury Persuasion: Telling jurors where to look
We’ve written recently about the value of using “human parts” in graphics to direct the jurors eyes. It was a simple lesson. Reality, alas, appears to be more complex. New research says gender matters in terms of gaze direction. That is, men and women focus on different things and are distracted by different things when they are watching videos.
Researchers studied 34 male and female participants as they watched videos of people being interviewed. They knew women have a small advantage over men in decoding nonverbal communication (based on past research findings). They were curious as to whether gender differences also occurred during listening tasks. Behind the interview subjects (but within the frame participants were watching) were multiple distractions intended to pull gaze away. For example, pedestrians, cyclists, and cars passed by while the camera angle on the speaker was adjusted so that sometimes they were in the center of the screen and other times to the side of the screen. The researchers had pointed a camera at participants as they watched the videos with the camera recording eye movements.
Male research participants (N = 15) focused their eyes on the speaker’s mouth. They were most distracted by movement behind the interviewee.
Female research participants (N = 19) moved their eyes between the speaker’s eyes and body. They were most often distracted by other people moving into the video frame.
The researchers summarize their findings this way:
“Women rely more on features relating to the social nature of the scene to direct attention, whereas men rely more on motion features, possibly indicating that men and women maintain awareness of their social surroundings with different task priorities in mind.”
So what does that mean for litigation advocacy? Oddly, despite the ocular-fixation aspect of this research, the results are consistent with what we know about some of the gender variations in communication focus. Women are more focused on social interactions and men are more focused on motion and movement. These are not new pieces of information. It boils down to paying attention to how you tell your story so that it appeals to both male and female, young and old, religious and irreligious, gay and straight, multiple ethnicities and so on. Focus on embedding your story with universal values so it resonates–no matter where jurors eyes go as they listen.
Shen J, & Itti L (2012). Top-down influences on visual attention during listening are modulated by observer sex. Vision Research, 65, 62-76 PMID: 22728922