January 06, 2021 Feature

Give the Jury What It Wants: Decision-Making in Trial Practice

Jurors are often caught between two human modes of thought.

Chris Patton and John Adams

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Behavioral psychology research has exploded in popularity as scientists have begun to explain the seemingly irrational decisions people make every day. This research has expanded into the realms of economics, marketing, and even political science. The new-found potential of behavioral psychology became self-evident when one of its primary architects—Daniel Kahneman—won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002, marking the rise of so-called “behavioral economics.” More recently, books applying its principles have topped the best-seller charts, bringing discussions of “choice theory” into the mainstream.

Yet, despite the surging popularity of behavioral psychology, few researchers have addressed its implications in the jury trial context. This article aims to nudge that application along by providing an initial tool kit, a starter set of applied research, to give trial lawyers the best chance of persuading a jury. At the very least, this article will illuminate the scientific principles underlying the lore of trial practice.

Illustration by Paul Garland.

Illustration by Paul Garland.

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