Jury Summons

Jury Summons

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Making A Mimicry

Many psychological theories can be applied to jury selection and management.  After all, understanding the human mind is a common goal of both psychology and jury management.  One example of this crossover is the application of Mimicry to jury selection and management.  A recent article by Matthew Groebe et al. illustrates this psychological phenomenon and its application to juries.

The article defines Mimicry as the unconscious reaction of imitating of other people’s behaviors, movements, postures, and facial expressions.  The key characteristic of mimicry is that it occurs outside conscious awareness.  In general, mimicry is an indicator that the mimicker likes or agrees with the interaction partner.  Nodding along with a speaker or smiling when the speaker is smiling are both examples of this positive correlation.  This behavioral mechanism is an evolutionary trait that enhances the survival of a society.

The article cites several scientific studies on the topic of Mimicry.  Mimicry dates back to before spoken language, when non-verbal behavior played a much more significant role in survival.  There are strong motivations to ensure the success of societal interactions, such as survival and reproductive success.  So, what can we learn from mimicry that will help strengthen jury management?

One study cited in the article noted that those who were mimicked reported a greater liking of their interaction partner than those who were not mimicked.  From a persuasion aspect, people are more likely to be persuaded by someone they like.  Therefore, mimicry plays a substantial role in persuasive settings such as jury management.  Making conscious efforts to mimic juror behavior, and making conscious note of those jurors who mimic your behavior can be beneficial to the jury process.  This practice can be helpful during voir dire, but also during trial as you present evidence to the jury. 

During voir dire, this research can be used to identify jurors who are initially favorable to your side, or identify and remove jurors who are initially predisposed to the opposing side.  The article notes that mimicry is especially helpful during voir dire because of another psychological phenomenon known as Primacy.  Primacy is the effect that initial impressions and preferences hold an inordinate amount of influence compared to subsequent impressions or preferences.  Therefore, being able to identify favorable and unfavorable juror preferences at this phase of the trial can help an attorney choose the best possible jury for any particular case.  However, the author cautions against reliance upon mimicry within the context of jury management.

The results of the data collected from the various studies show that mimicry is an important factor to consider regarding juror agreement.  However, the results show that mimicry is an indicator of temporary verdict preference, and are susceptible to change.  One study showed that mock jurors change their minds as new evidence is introduced.  In this respect, perhaps mimicry is more important during the trial than during voir dire because it allows attorneys to constantly evaluate their success in winning over particular jurors.  Given that jurors change their minds as new evidence is introduced, this research can be helpful in determining the strength of certain evidence or testimony.  Further, this research can help attorneys adapt their case to cater to those jurors identified as unfavorable to their side.

This type of psychological research, as well as psychological research in general, has many useful applications to jury selection and management.  The author cautions against over reliance on this and similar types of psychological research, but adding another tool to your attorney utility belt makes you that much more prepared to deal with the unpredictable nature of jury trials.

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