Thursday, January 10, 2008

More Jelly Beans Please

Any effective criminal trial lawyer needs a trial theme to keep the jury interested. Furthermore, they'll present their case in the way of a story to help jury comprehension. But what happens to our themes and stories when jurors are required to comprehend difficult, and thus repetitive, concepts? Well, Anne Reed tipped us off this week to an interesting study about how people absorb information that is unvaried. Anne posited:
When you need jurors to understand new and complicated facts or concepts, you have a problem: you need to repeat the material more than once, but when you do, you're punished for it. A new and seemingly unrelated study suggests a path between the rock and the hard place.
The study hypothesized people don't like absorbing repetitive information. However, if the repetitive information was broken down into separate information bites (no pun intended), or sub-categorized, then the listeners liked it better.

I loved the researcher's method - make people eat jelly beans. I, for one, like jelly beans and wouldn't mind how many they made me eat. But it appeared the research subjects were more reasonable. They were only required to eat 22 beans. Those who were told "just eat the beans" got bored. Those who were told to eat cherry, then orange, then strawberry, then peach, and then tangerine avoided getting "maxed-out."

The bottom line for lawyers? Bring different flavored jelly beans to jury trial. While you're enjoying the candy, make sure you're breaking-up difficult and repetitive information into sub-categories that the jury will enjoy hearing more. While you're doing that, throw each a bean.

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