Simple Jury Persuasion: Do haters have to hate? It would seem so.
It’s in our genes. Or at least, in our dispositions. We all know people who are consistently negative. They pick out the negative in every situation and magnify it. Conversely, we also know people who are invariably positive. We call them Pollyanna’s. They are two extremes: the Haters and the Pollyanna’s.
However, those extremes may have a useful lesson for us in teasing out attitudes, values and beliefs–at least according to the researchers whose work we are examining today. The researchers use the example of two very different stimuli: attitudes about architecture and healthcare. They are obviously different and the attitudes of one don’t seem to have any relation to the other. But, there is a common denominator. Because it isn’t about architecture and healthcare. Instead, it’s about the person making the judgment about both stimuli. Knowing that one’s disposition is either negatively disposed (e.g., the Hater) or positively disposed (e.g., the Pollyanna) could be an important variable. It isn’t the subject, it’s the audience.
The researchers call this a “dispositional attitude” (e.g., “an individual difference in the general tendency to like or dislike stimuli”) and say it “has important implications for attitude theory and research”. They developed a 16-item measure across a series of 4 separate studies (starting with 100 questions and gradually shortening the measure) to assess the tendency to either like or dislike stimuli.
The resulting 16-item measure is one which would never give indication of what is truly being measured. Here is a snapshot of the measure itself taken directly from the article:
Overall, the researchers found differences between what we would call the Haters and the Pollyanna’s:
The Pollyanna’s (those with a generally positive disposition) were more open than the Haters (those with a generally negative disposition).
What this means, say the researchers, is that the Pollyanna’s are probably more likely to buy new products, get health-related vaccinations, and do positive actions like recycling, driving carefully, et cetera.
The researchers also comment that their findings might be useful in endeavors to persuade since the Pollyanna’s would be more readily persuaded to have positive reactions to stimuli and the Haters would be more readily persuaded to have negative reactions to stimuli.
It’s a very intriguing concept for those of us involved in litigation advocacy. The Pollyanna (or what the researchers describe as a person with a more positive dispositional attitude) is more curious, more open, and more willing (we would guess) to listen to (and potentially accept) new concepts and ideas. Conversely, the Hater (what the researchers would describe as someone with a more negative dispositional attitude) is likely to be less open, less curious and more judgmental, and less willing to consider (and will potentially reject) new concepts and ideas.
But what does that mean for trial strategy and jury selection? Since this is new research we can’t yet be certain. We will be investigating it, but only our clients will know for sure. But what our experience and intuition tells us is that the Haters probably have more in common with others who are described as cognitively rigid, conformist, and demanding of both witnesses and parties to ‘be like me’. Pollyanna’s are more likely to tolerate uncertainty, diversity, and stretching to incorporate new information into older cognitive models of the world.
These are characteristics we often look for in jurors depending on what side of the case we are working.
There will be occasions when you want curious and open-minded jurors to listen to the case. They would be more “without bias”.
On the other hand, there are obviously times when you want the more negatively disposed juror who will not listen and will simply vote with their preconceived and closed ideas.
It’s an idea to ponder. It’s one we are already pondering.
Hepler J, & Albarracín D (2013). Attitudes without objects: Evidence for a dispositional attitude, its measurement, and its consequences. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104 (6), 1060-76 PMID: 23586409