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Should I choose the creative juror, the introvert/extravert, or the religious juror?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012
posted by Douglas Keene

We’ve written before about creative folksextraverts and those who are religious. Three social science projects now give us additional clues as to times when you might want to choose one characteristic over the others. Or not.

As you might guess, it all comes down to your case themes and specifics. Let’s say you are left with one peremptory strike and three venire members in question. One is strongly religious, one is an artist and one is clearly extraverted. Here’s what the new research would say about how those three could differ on some important details.

Creative people, according to Dan Ariely, are better at rationalizing small ethical lapses that can spiral out of control. Ariely says creative sorts are not evil masterminds, but rather have justified minor wrongs that then escalate without warning.

Introverts and extraverts use language differently. And not just in terms of talking more or less. Introverts use more concrete words and are more precise or descriptive while extraverts are more abstract and interpretive.

Researchers asked participants to describe what was happening in a series of photos. Introverts were more likely to concretely describe the photo (e.g., “He could be writing a letter”) while extraverts described the photo more abstractly (e.g., “He could be lonely”). The researchers also opine that the introvert’s style of description is more likely to result in judgments that are situational in nature (e.g., “Camile yells at Martin”) while the extravert is more likely to make judgments as to traits that are more enduring (e.g., “Camile is unfriendly”).

Finally, those who are religious or paranormal believers are more likely to see “face like areas” on photographs than were the skeptics or atheists participating in research. (Yes, this is like those postings of toast with religious images in them on eBay.)

Participants were shown some photographs that were judged as having face like areas and others that were not. The researchers found that those who were religious and paranormal believers were more likely to see the face like patterns (whether they were present or not) than were the skeptics and the atheists.

So what can these varied findings mean for your use in litigation advocacy? That’s a very good question. And here are some thoughts…

Does the case involve allegations or ethical or moral transgressions? The creative juror might be more able to see how a small wrong could spiral out of control for the accused. The introverted juror might be more likely to attribute the misbehavior to situational factors rather than attribute it to character traits. The religious juror might adjudge the defendant more harshly particularly if they see past behavior repeating itself.

Does the case involve allegations of broken promises–like a contracts case, a partnership crushed by betrayal, or warranties of safety or reliability? Again, the creative person may be more likely to believe a good story of a minor wrong that grew beyond expectation. The introvert may be more likely (especially if behaviors of the accused are described concretely) to see the issues as more situational than personality-driven. The religious person may be more likely to see past patterns of behavior repeating themselves.

Since non-economic damages (and the credibility of the economic models used by each side) are often driven by perceptions of character and implied intent, it becomes crucial that you consider what juror is likely to harshly judge your client’s character, or the intent of the opposition.

According to these research findings, you have an extra tea-leaf to predict who will respond one way or another. But our experience with thousands of jurors differs from that of these social science researchers. Whenever you use one trait or characteristic to profile your jurors, you are on a very slippery slope. Just like striking a venire member based on race, age, gender, or income–deselecting based on religion, personality traits or occupation is dangerous and likely just plain wrong. The decision matrix is invariably more complex than that.

Attitudes. Values. Beliefs. Experiences. Those things reflect more about how any particular juror will respond to any particular fact pattern than any single demographic descriptor.

No matter what else you may read–that’s a good thing to remember in voir dire.

Beukeboom, C., Tanis, M., & Vermeulen, I. (2012). The Language of Extraversion: Extraverted People Talk More Abstractly, Introverts Are More Concrete Journal of Language and Social Psychology DOI: 10.1177/0261927X12460844

Riekki, T., Lindeman, M., Aleneff, M., Halme, A., & Nuortimo, A. (2012). Paranormal and Religious Believers Are More Prone to Illusory Face Perception than Skeptics and Non-believers Applied Cognitive Psychology DOI: 10.1002/acp.2874

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