Simple Jury Persuasion: “The opportunity to leave a cognitive legacy”
As trial consultants we are always alert to the possibility of new persuasion strategies. Often we find new perspectives in disciplines other than our own. Intriguing and powerful conclusions can stem from different sorts of thinking processes, based on different bodies of research.
Recently, we ran across the work of Arthur (Skip) Lupia whose presentations contain a treasure trove of findings applicable to courtroom persuasion. Lupia entreats presenters to make their message urgent and relevant to the specific audience and then “seize the opportunity to leave a cognitive legacy”. One aspect of what he says is that when you are making efforts to communicate, you need to pay attention to both awareness and credibility.
Awareness: There are a finite number of parking spaces in the brain for attention. Lupia says you have about 7 parking spaces (plus or minus two) and if your ideas are complex, you may need 3 or 4 of those parking spaces. There are many competitors for your spaces. For example, lunch plans, a grocery list, that odd buzzing sound coming from the overhead lights in the presentation room, what you plan to do this evening, and so on. Your verbal content needs to beat out the other competition for the listener’s attention [aka limited parking spaces].
Credibility: Having a Ph.D. or a J.D. doesn’t automatically give you credibility. Dressing a certain way doesn’t give you credibility. Having a certain personality doesn’t give you credibility. What gives you credibility in the audience’s perception, according to Lupia, is if you share their values and are seen as understanding them.
In short, Lupia (a mathematician and political scientist) says in order to be credible, you have to demonstrate both expertise in the subject area and shared interests with your audience.
“We can make presentations that please us. We can make presentations that affirm our values as scientists. And we can blame them [i.e., our audience] if it doesn’t work. But another choice we have is to try to persuade people who are different from us, and that requires a different communicative strategy.”
If you watch the video at the link above, you will see that Arthur Lupia has come a long ways from his initial efforts to persuade using mathematical equations and formulas. One of his most succinct recommendations for persuasive communication has three parts (and we could have written them ourselves!).
Keep the content of what you are saying close to the listener’s experience. (We see the importance of this directive routinely in high tech litigation.)
Make your content concrete and immediate. (In other words, don’t use jargon or lots of polysyllabic words. Don’t present abstractions. Tell your audience plainly and clearly what your position is and how it relates to the question at hand.)
Make the goal/call to action possible to achieve. (What do you want? Is it fairness? Justice? Compensation? Jail time? Tell the audience what you want and how they can achieve that goal.)
Jurors, in our experience, want very much to do the right thing. What Arthur Lupia’s work and evolving beliefs tell us is that we can communicate effectively to those different from us if we pay attention to speaking their language rather than solely our own.
[The paper below is illustrative of Lupia’s work on integrating the research to identify pathways to persuade those different from us, and how to change our focus of attention and be more successful in our efforts.]
Lupia, Arthur (2012). The Trouble with Voters and Those Who Try to Fix Them. SSRN Electronic Journal