The Jury Expert www.thejuryexpert.com this month published an important article by Jason Barnes, an experienced jury consultant, titled “Graphics Double Comprehension.” My strong belief in the importance of great graphics in trial is supported by this article which I recommend. Here are some of the major points he made.
You remember what you see far more than you remember what you hear
Barnes notes that our retinas contain 70% of all sensory receptors in our body and are actually outgrowths of our brain. He says that while the brain’s visual system takes up to 40% of our cerebral cortex, our touch or feel system occupies only 8% and hearing accounts for only 3%. He therefore concludes that we are really visual people. He points out that our speaking abilities come from much smaller areas of the brain then our visual. These facts, he says, explain why we are able to remember visual images far more than we are able to remember words alone.
Words and pictures can interact with working memory to form more meaningful connections
The channels for receiving information in our brain are separate for verbal and visual. The article points out that neuroscientists refer to the visual and verbal systems as using a “dual coding model” in which each channel operates independently to process information. When we combine words and visuals we create an interlocking of words and picture together that are lodged in long-term memory so that when we think of words, we see the images and when we think of the image we hear the words.
Combining visuals with words more than doubles comprehension
One of the key truths in the article is the importance of combining visuals with words for long-term memory and comprehension both. In the study cited in the article participants who heard a lecture only identified 28% of possible correct answers they were presented with. However, when participants receive the same information both by lecture and with visual animation, they were able to identify 62% of all possible correct answers. Clearly combining words and visuals together increases comprehension.
The author succinctly describes the only logical conclusion from this information: “The lesson for trial advocates is clear. If we want jurors to not only remember our evidence… but to also understand (it), we must use visuals to strengthen our words.” That’s why when we are presenting our clients story to the jury we need to combine it with visuals like timelines photos, maps and the like to supplement the words. We are visual people.
He also makes the important point: “We must be careful to remember that the jury is always looking; their visual system is a 24 hour news channel that cannot be turned off.” Not only are they observant of all of the nonverbal communication, they are also looking at everything going on in the courtroom. For them everything they see becomes visual evidence. Therefore, it is important that to the extent we can, we control what they see. Since trial is a battle of impression and not logic that means that our clients and everybody involved in our case should be aware of the jury’s continued visual review.
Ross Perot said: “Talk is cheap. Words are plentiful and deeds are precious.” To which we can add “and, it is also true that seeing is believing.”