Archive for the ‘Simple Jury Persuasion’ Category
People will actually see you more positively when you raise no money for charity at all than they will when you raise $1,000,000 (but skim $100,000 for yourself). Even if you said you were going to keep 10% up front and the charity really did get the $900,000! When you benefit (in any way) from your charitable activities, your altruistic acts are likely to be seen as somehow tainted by your self-interest.
There is a really nice write-up of this article at Time Magazine and therefore, we won’t focus on what the researchers did, but rather on the reason they thought tainted altruism worth investigating. It’s all about access to counter-factual information!
Counter-factual thinking is the label used to describe what happens when we think about ‘what if’ or ‘if only’ alternatives to a regrettable situation. When jurors employ counter-factual thinking in response to litigation, they often think things like:
“If only she hadn’t driven a different way to work that day…”
“What if he had sought out a third opinion?”
“If only they hadn’t decided to have a second child…”
“What if the company had trained their employees differently…”
Often the presumed answers to these questions are that the negative event that is central to the case would not have happened. In this particular article, the researchers say the idea of “tainted altruism” stems from the lack of available counterfactual information in making decisions.
To explain, these researchers believe that when we see both charitable acts and personal benefit, we see inconsistency between charitable behaviors and personal benefit– and we presume selfishness. Thus, we are more likely to rate the charitable person (who benefitted from those charitable acts) negatively.
On the other hand, when we see only self-interested behavior, we are not automatically drawn to wondering whether that person could have been more altruistic. The person never tried to pretend any lofty motive, so the judgment about the person is not negative.
This, say the researchers, is the essence of the “tainted altruism effect”. Actions that produce both charitable and personal benefits will be assessed more negatively than those that are self-interested and result in no charitable benefit. The existence of the effect was supported across all four experiments conducted.
The researchers summarize past research findings in this area (and we make a few comments of our own):
People react negatively toward for-profit organizations doing religious or health-oriented work. (On the other hand, few people realize that the non-profit organizations who do religious or health-related work are often enormously profitable. When this is presented, it can alienate jurors.)
People question the motivations of wealthy philanthropists. (Which can be counter-balanced by the admission that the wealth was created by pure capitalistic fervor, and the philanthropy is a separate matter.)
People seem to believe that if your prosocial behavior is truly genuine, you will not receive even unrelated personal benefits. (But, as in the examples above, if the benefit is abstract or does not diminish the benefit to others– by skimming off a percentage, for example– the effect can be minimized.)
Charitable donors with a personal connection to the charitable cause are given less credit for their good works. (This is a highly circumstantial finding that is certainly variable from case to case.)
You might see the results of past research as reflecting a tendency to assume the worst when there is money or glamour (or litigation) involved. Your goal is to supply the missing counterfactual information–or, to get jurors to consider the opposite end of the spectrum.
“My client could have made a modest personal donation to the worthwhile efforts of the charity. [Client] is in the business of raising funds for deserving charities. S/he chose to raise money for [deserving charity] while retaining 10% of the proceeds, as was understood and agreed to from the start. The charity could have received 100% of [client’s] modest donation, or 90% of the fruits of his/her enormous fund raising talents. As it ended up, my client should be thanked, not vilified.
Give jurors the information on the other end of the spectrum so they can weigh the “real issue”–no charitable benefit versus most of the charitable gains. It’s one of those odd times when the counterfactual, presented correctly, can work for you rather than against you.
Newman GE, & Cain DM (2014). Tainted Altruism: When Doing Some Good Is Evaluated as Worse Than Doing No Good at All. Psychological Science PMID: 24403396
When your evidence is weak, how can you be more persuasive? Precision. Observers want to see certain things to have confidence in what you are saying. The more precise you are, the more likely the observer is to see you as knowledgeable and accurate (even when negotiating for salary!). So what does the observer look for to assess your confidence? For eyewitnesses, the researchers say, observers (such as jurors) rely on speech rate, eye gaze, posture, and use of nervous gestures to assess accuracy. There is a longing for certainty that draws people to rely on these cues even when they are told of the gap between eyewitness accounts and actual accuracy. More recent research has focused on the use of precision to elicit confidence in you from the observer.
The researchers conducted two separate experiments: one with the ubiquitous undergraduate (N = 187) and one with Mechanical Turk (online research) participants (N = 163).
The undergraduates read answers to questions about the lengths of rivers and the heights of mountains (which had ostensibly provided earlier by other participants. They were asked to indicate their belief in the accuracy of the answers. The manipulation by the researchers was that the answers were presented as either “imprecise” (rounded to the 100s, e.g., 2600 miles) or “precise” (rounded to the first place, e.g., 2611 miles). The undergraduates were more confident in the “precise” answers to the questions.
The Mechanical Turk participants played a game akin to “The Price is Right” game show. The participants were asked to price three different products and were given help in the form of “audience suggestions”. The audience suggestions either ended with a 0 (imprecise) or ended with a 1 through a 9 (precise). Half the subjects were given estimates over the true value and half were given estimates under the true value. Then they were asked to “choose” the audience member who would “advise” them in the upcoming round of the game. The Mechanical Turk participants were more likely to choose an “advisor” who had provided a precise number (i.e., a number ending in 1 through 9).
Both undergraduates and Mechanical Turk participants believed more precise estimates were made by more confident (and likely more accurate) people. There is no real truth to this belief, but there you have it. If you are more precise, people think you are more confident and therefore are more likely to believe what you are saying. The authors use the example of “sports pundits often discuss[ing] National Football League draft prospects to hundredths of milliseconds–more precision than measurement error allows for”. People prefer precise estimates, say the researchers, “which creates incentives for such overprecise and misleading reporting”.
From a litigation advocacy perspective, the weaker your evidence, the more precise you want to be in identifying damages, settlement requests, or life care amounts. An example is to establish the amount of a life care plan to the penny, even though it is a projection and by its nature, imprecise.
“The weaker the data available upon which to base one’s conclusion, the greater the precision which should be quoted in order to give the data authenticity.” Norman Ralph Augustine
Jerez-Fernandez A, Angulo AN, & Oppenheimer DM (2014). Show me the numbers: precision as a cue to others’ confidence. Psychological Science, 25 (2), 633-5 PMID: 24317423
All those dress for success formulas apparently forgot something important. Nonconformity can be a good thing when thoughtfully applied. However, if observers think you are unaware that your behavior or attire is not conforming–then you’re just a weirdo. Harvard researchers call this the “red sneakers effect” and here’s how it works.
Many of us think that there is a social cost to dressing differently or not following established norms. We might predict nonconformity would lead to social rejection, for example. On the contrary, in this research (which included 5 laboratory and field experiments), observers (from very different walks of life) saw the nonconformist more positively. After testing reactions to unconventional dress in four separate lab experiments, one of the authors tried it out in the real world.
“To try out her idea in a real-world setting, second author Francesca Gino stepped into a different pair of shoes–literally. Executives attending a seminar she taught were asked questions about the consulting work she did. They were more likely to think she charged higher fees and had a bigger client roster when she was wearing red sneakers with a business suit than when she was wearing more traditional shoes.” For this field experiment, the researchers measured the participants need for uniqueness and asked them if they owned shoes that have an unusual color. Ultimately, the researchers only used male participants for analysis since “almost all female respondents (28 of 30) said they owned a pair of distinctive-looking shoes”.
Overall, the researchers summarize their findings this way:
Nonconforming behavior can lead to inferences of enhanced status and competence.
Observers who have their own need for uniqueness and who think the nonconformity is driven by the autonomy of the person they are assessing are more likely to rate the nonconformist positively.
However, if the observer is not familiar with the environment, if they think the nonconformist is unaware they are not conforming (i.e., they are just a weirdo), or if there are no “established norms of formal conduct in the given context), the observer is less likely to see the nonconformist positively.
From a litigation advocacy perspective, this research carries multiple implications:
Your expert witness is likely from a well-respected institution with degrees from other well-respected institutions. A little non-conformity in attire (like a bow tie, “crazy socks” for men, or even red sneakers) might help jurors bestow even higher levels of competence and/or status to your expert. The risk is to avoid appearing frivolous or flakey. The digression from expected appearance is ideally very slight.
Consider whether your client him or herself could benefit from a little wardrobe quirkiness. Is your client an inventor, a high-achieving entrepreneur, an expert in a professional field, or a very financially successful investor or business figure? A little nonconformity could add credibility and stature. With the right person (with strong credibility factors in place) it can communicate “I care about [my area of knowledge] more than fitting into a mold.
No Rolex! One of the findings in this research is that lower status brands rather than the “more conforming luxury brands” resulted in observers conferring more success onto the wearer. An additional bonus is that it will make you (or your client) more relatable to the jurors.
A caveat to this is that the appearance has to be consistent with the general expectations of ‘identity’ of the witness. A business exec can’t show up wearing a disheveled suit or scuffed shoes. That conveys sloppiness and inattention to detail. But an engineer or programmer who looks a bit sloppy might be exactly what jurors expect.
Finally, I will share that my advice to witnesses is to dress in a way that is consistent with public expectations for someone in your role. I recently consulted on a case in which I was prepping engineers and skilled laborers in a manufacturing facility. None of them were slobs, but I advised the engineers to wear dress shirts and the welders and draftsmen to wear company polo shirts. No one was trying to make a fashion statement, and everyone looked like they belonged in their role.
Bellezza, S., Gino, F., & Keinan, A. (2013). The red sneakers effect: Inferring status and competence from signals of nonconformity. Journal of Consumer Research. DOI: 10.1086/674870
We like to look back at the end of the year to see which posts had the most traffic on our blog. It’s a way for us to know what you like to read and to see what sorts of posts attract attention regardless of when they were written. Here is a traditional Top 10 countdown–starting with the post that was our #10 and ending up with our #1 post (as measured by internet traffic) for the calendar year 2013.
#10: “A new question for the jury: Did my brain implant make me do it?”. A post from December 20, 2013 that caught fire and made it into our top 10 posts for 2013. Some people need deep brain stimulation (DBS) to treat serious medical conditions. But for a few, DBS results in inappropriate and sometimes illegal behavior. This is a twist on the neurolaw question: “Did my brain make me do it?”.
#9: “Jury Sequestration: ‘Not even the Bible is left in your hotel room’”. Written during the Trayvon Martin trial–this post was very popular among those following that trial and wondering what sequestration would truly mean for the 6 jurors.
#8: “Simple Jury Persuasion: Tattoo you?”. Should a trial lawyer be tattooed? It’s a big question. This research says it depends on just who you are trying to persuade.
#7: “Simple Jury Persuasion: The Alpha Strategies”: This post highlights the difference between the alpha and the omega strategies of persuasion by looking specifically at the alpha strategies (a direct form of persuasion).
#6: “Excuse me, potential juror, but just how big is your amygdala?”. There is tremendous interest in the new neurolaw findings and this post summarized an article positing that conservatives have larger amygdalas while liberals have larger cingulate cortexes. This, according to the authors, is critically important for understanding the decision-making of these two groups. Uh-huh.
#5: “A screwdriver: The new addition to your trial toolbox? (We think not.). This was an odd one where researchers found if you tilt chairs to the left (subtly) the unsuspecting sitter agrees with the Democrat Party more than those sitters in chairs subtly tilted to the right (who agree more with the Republican Party). We think it best to not tinker with the chairs in the deliberation room or in the jury box.
#4: “When you wear glasses you are less attractive but more smart and trustworthy.” This one summarizes research that says if you want to increase perceptions of your trustworthiness and intelligence without decreasing your attractiveness–there is a specific sort of eyeglass frame to investigate.
#3: “No one makes a deal on a handshake these days!”. Here’s one on how hard it is to believe multimillion dollar deals are still based on verbal contracts and handshakes.
#2: “Women who stalk: Who they are and how they do it”. This post looks at the research on female stalkers and all we need to say here is you really do not want a female stalker. Of course, you don’t want a male stalker either.
And here it is. Our most popular post during the 2013 calendar year….
#1: “The glasses create a sort of unspoken nerd defense.” This is the first post we did on this research which was misinterpreted by the media and resulted in a lot of lawyers buying glasses for their clients to wear. The followup posts on this research also made our Top 10 via a “nerd defense” search of our blog.
So that’s our 2013 rundown. Please join us as we roll out 2014 and continue to bring you the latest in research and strategy for the art and science of courtroom advocacy.
If only they would listen. It is so frustrating when you know you are right but no one is agreeing with you. When we wrote about myside bias last week, the article stimulating today’s post had not yet been published.
But the author experienced exactly what our client attorneys do when listening to mock jurors react to evidence presentations. Except this author wasn’t with a group of mock jurors, some of whom may not be well-educated, rational and analytical thinkers. No. The author was instead with a group of fellow scientific researchers. All of whom would arguably be rational and analytic thinkers. And they were arguing about ergonomics and whether sitting is killing us.
Specifically, they were arguing about the information presented in the infographic we blogged about two years ago. Okay, so maybe these scientists don’t keep up as well as they might and are still arguing about two-year-old infographics. That is not the point. This is the point.
“And then I realized something: it didn’t matter whether I was right; nobody was listening to me anymore.”
It goes to show you. It isn’t just that group of mock jurors who are too thick-headed to understand you are right. It isn’t just the judge, the arbitrator, the actual jurors, or the mediator who just don’t understand. It is instead a confusion about the difference between being “right” and being persuasive. And while you may be (inarguably) right, you may not be persuasive.
It’s a really hard thing to define and Chris Holdgraf (the author of the brief post) doesn’t really define the difference between being right and being persuasive. We’ve said before here that there really is no such thing as persuasion.
Instead there are well–crafted narratives that resonate with the listener’s values and beliefs and show them how your client is, in many ways, “like them”.
Through pretrial research (and many years of study and experience), we identify elements of the trial story that gave the potential to trigger resistance.
In other words, we want to see what elements need to be reframed to avoid that resistance so that new listeners can actually hear the story itself, rather than having alarms go off in their brains that cause them to stop listening.
So, it doesn’t really matter if you are talking to mock jurors, actual jurors, judges, arbiters, mediators, colleagues, or a group of research scientists. The goal is to keep them listening–which is, we think, the closest you can come to persuading. Keep them listening. Tell a story that resonates with their values. Help them see that their own values would be reflected in a verdict in favor of your client.
Holdgraf, C. 2013 On being ‘right’ in science. The Student Blog at PLoS Blogs.
Stanovich, KE, West, RF, & Toplak, ME (2013). Myside bias, rational thinking and intelligence. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22 DOI: 10.1177/0963721413480174