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Simple Jury Persuasion: Ways to lie with charts

Wednesday, January 7, 2015
posted by Rita Handrich

lie with chartsMock jurors often confound attorneys by noticing evidence not highlighted on PowerPoint slide shows during presentations. They will bring up “the paragraph right before what was highlighted” during deliberations and use it to torpedo attorney credibility.

In a recent mock trial, one of the Defense attorneys questioned why the Plaintiff had not done due diligence prior to taking a job. Later, a Plaintiff-oriented mock juror commented that “due diligence goes both ways” and wondered if the Defense had done their own due diligence prior to buying the company over which they were now being sued. It is impressive how much is seen, understood, and retained as exhibits are quickly shown, deposition excerpts are reviewed, and attorneys present their cases in record time to mock jurors. But those jurors are watching.

So when we saw this impressive and brief presentation on the web about how to lie with charts, we thought it was a useful tool to show how visual evidence can mislead and to reiterate the idea that simple is better when it comes to accurately depicting data. We know the power of first impressions when it comes to meeting people. The same goes for data presented visually. How you present information carries a powerful wallop. Here’s a chart illustrating how perspective can alter your interpretation of data even in a simple pie chart showing “labor” taking up about 30% of the total.


lying with charts

The pie chart is seen as the most simple of charts and yet, as you can see, perspective makes all the difference in our intuitive interpretation of the chart. The labor slice on the right just “seems bigger” and our brains realize that. Once you see the chart for the first time, you may think “labor” takes up a bigger chunk of the pie than it actually does.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, it becomes important to critically eye your own graphics and the graphics of opposing counsel. This easily accessible primer for lying with charts is a good training tool to help you begin to assess the ways in which data is misrepresented for one reason or another.

Five ways to lie with charts. Nautilus.


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