Eric Oliver is a trial consultant whose company is MetaSystems Ltd (www.eric-oliver.com) is in Canton, Michigan. I’ve known and respected Eric for years. He has consulted on my cases. I particularly look forward to his newsletter he labels News from The Mental Edge. Eric is t he one who first introduced me to the knowledge that decisions are made at an unconscious level and ratified by our intellect. We can’t access the unconscious process where decisions are made to see how they are being made. More importantly, nobody makes decisions by listing reasons for it first. Reasons, in words, come last. As Eric is fond of saying the reasons "are the caboose on the train." Eric says a decision is far more "realized" than it is "made."
This issue (Vol. 13 No. 2) has information which should be of interest to trial lawyers. For instance, I’ve written about the Neuro Linguistic Programing concept of "mirroring" before. In this issue Dan Jones and Alison Motluk have an article on the subject which first appeared in New Scientist. They call mirroring "mimicking" someone’s mannerisms, but the concept is the same. They cite evidence as to the favorable effect it has in persuasion. They say:
"The crucial factors are: Be subtle, leave a delay and, whatever you do, if you think there’s even the slighted chance you’ve been rumbled, stop."
The delay in mirroring mannerisms never occurred to me, but the authors recommend waiting 2 to 4 seconds after observing thebehavior you intend to mirrorbefore doing so. Research makes it clear that mirroring works.
I also found important some other points the two authors make in the same article.One isresearch that indicates that a negative attack has a more powerful influence than a positive message. In other words, where there are two options, attacking the one you don’t like carries more weight then simply giving a positive message about the one you do like. Perhaps the politicians and their negative political ads are right after all.
Another point they raise is that the more reasons advanced in support of an idea or proposal the less effective it is. Less is more. They recommend three reasons at most. Studies indicated that when eight reasons in support of an idea were compared to two reasons, the lesser amount was more successful. I have always believed that for trial lawyers less is always more and have advocated no more then three reasons for any proposition. I also limit any illustrative exhibit to no more then three points per exhibit for the same reason.
They confirm what most of us who try cases believe, anger makes people feel empowered. If people are convinced that the issue is relevant to them, that it impacts them or those close to them and are angry about it andyou offer a way to remedy the situation, they are motivated to do so. A feeling of anger accompanied by a solution is a powerful motivator according to the authors. It only makes sense that the greater the injustice the greater the need for a verdict to compensate for it.
Eric cites, in this issue, social scientist Drew Westin’s publication, The Political Brain. He says that in political races there are really four stories, not one. There is the story about yourself, the opponent’s story about you, your story about your opponent and the opponent’s story about himself. This is also true in the trial of lawsuits. We need t o address thesame subjects from four different perspectives.
I am indebted to Eric Oliver for his informative Newsletters. He is also the co- author of the book Facts Can’t Speak for Themselves (www.nita.org)