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What Cognitive Science Can Tell Us about Jury Decision Making

July 20, 2018, Live Webcast

Texas MCLE Course Number: 174021850 (up to 1.00 hr)

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Presented by: UT Law CLE

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A studio webcast that I did earlier this month discussed how jury decision-making may be impacted by both unconscious biases and cognitive science.

What makes a bigger impression on a jury—your opening statement or closing argument? What causes jurors to conform to the pressures of others and can voir dire mitigate these effects? How do leading questions affect jury verdicts?

The 1-hour recording will be available here with the opportunity to earn CLE credit in TX and CA!

Cognitive Science is the interdisciplinary study of the mind. In psychology, it is the study of attention, language use, memory, perception, problem solving, reasoning and thinking. A major area of Cognitive Science is the area of bias. We are naturally drawn to details that confirm our own existing beliefs and, similar to that, we tend to not notice the flaws in ourselves as easily as we notice the flaws in other people.

We will also fill in the gaps of our understanding if we don’t feel like we have enough information or meaning to make a decision. This is where relying on stereotypes comes in to play – an easy, but inaccurate way, to understand a group you may otherwise be unfamiliar with. We can unintentionally think favorable towards groups and people we are familiar with versus those we might not understand or know. Both of these tendencies have a great deal to do with the underlying biases around racism, sexism, homophobia, and similar biases against other groups.

Our memory has limits. It is changeable over time because we edit and reinforce some memories after the fact. We tend to
discard specific information in order to form generalities. Knowing that everyone’s brain operates this way, it is up to the litigator to do some of this work for the jury and frame your case in ways they will digest. Knowing jury members will edit and
reinforce memories after they have heard them, the power of repetition of certain key facts is important.

For more on the effects of Cognitive Science, stay tuned for our published recording on this discussion.

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