Case framing influences our decision making. In fact, Mark Mandell says case framing should be the heart and soul of every case. That’s because the way people come to a conclusion depends in part on how the issue is described. Good trial lawyers use framing to persuade. Mark has also said “Every single thing you presented trial needs to be framed in sequence to focus on points you want to make.”
To understand the significance of communication framing, we need to understand how human beings make up their minds. Neuroscience has proven that the great majority of our decisions are made at a subconscious level. The decision is then ratified by our intellect with a reason for it even though it was decided in the subconscious mind without our conscious knowledge.
In general, decisions are greatly influenced primarily by three things: (1) our deeply held value beliefs (2) our significant life experiences and (3) by existing biases which combine to influence our opinions and impressions. Proper framing employs all of these factors in persuasion. As a result, research has established that a trial is a battle for overall impression and not a matter of logical analysis. Not only that, but emotion is always involved in decision making. Without an emotional component, decisions aren’t possible. Framing takes advantage of all these factors.
In addition, we decide issues by creating a story in our mind. It begins in the subconscious mind as we receive facts and evidence. Our subconscious mind employs emotional reactions with past experiences, our bias and our personal values to form a general impression. The result is a story the person creates and believes in the mind. Framing influences our impression, and our impression is what drives our opinions.
CLARITY AND SIMPLICITY IN FRAMING
Information overload is a modern problem of good communication. There is just too much information in our modern world, and we have to filter out what is useful to us. Framing simplifies issues. According to studies human beings are by nature “cognitive misers”, meaning they prefer to do as little thinking as possible. Frames provide people a quick and easy way to process information. Furthermore, we are also drawn to details that confirm our own existing beliefs. A frame which captures our own beliefs encourages acceptance of the idea.
Framing addresses the issue that information can be very confusing, and we need to make sense of it. We find stories and patterns in the information and filter out almost everything else. We fill in characteristics from stereotypes, generalities, and prior histories. We simplify probabilities and numbers to make them easier to think about. Framing helps simplify and encourages acceptance of our intended meaning.
Another factor framing relates to is our need to make fast decisions or act quickly. In order to stay focused, we favor the immediate, relatable thing in front of us over a delayed distant one. As a result, we favor options that appear simple or that have more complete information over more complex, ambiguous options. Framing offers a way to accomplish this need.
Another aspect of communication is the question of what we need to remember from all the information we are presented with. As a result, we edit out and reinforce memories after the fact. We discard specifics to form generalities. We reduced events and listed their key elements. We do that through framing with repeating or echoing and proper sequence in relating information.
That’s why our brain looks for shortcuts to explanations. Framing fits with the human nature of making mental shortcuts. For example, “a rule of thumb” or “an educated guess.”. Our brain looks for simplicity. Simple frames are the best frames.
FRAMING AND DAMAGE CONCEPTS
Framing is important in how you present your damage case to the jury. Researchers tested the presenting damages to a study group based upon the concept of the “need to be made whole.” They also presented damages based on the concept of the “value of what has been taken away.” . (McCaffery, Spitzer & Kahneman, Framing the Jury, (1995) 81 Va. L. Rev 1131.) They wanted to compare noneconomic damages from a “made whole” perspective with “the amount it would take to agree to suffer the injuries received.” The study group who was presented with the frame of damages for how much it would take to “go through it,” awarded more than three times than the “made whole” concept. This indicates that in presenting damages, avoid framing them as bringing your client back to where they were before, righting wrongs, or paying bills owed. Instead, frame them about what it is worth to lose one’s health, happiness, and enjoyment of life.
ANCHORS AND METAPHORS USE IN FRAMING
Two important aspects of good communication framing involve anchors and metaphors. Anchoring uses a trigger to subconsciously stimulate a consistent response. Anchors can be visual. They can be auditory, or they can be kinesthetic. Anchoring is used in advertisements all the time. Anchoring operates without our awareness. Even randomly selected numbers influence our subconscious judgment as anchors.
Metaphors create vivid images to make it easier to understand and remember the message. Metaphors engage the right brain, just as stories do. Metaphors have the power to bypass the conscious mind and deeply influence the subconscious mind. Metaphors are part of our natural thinking process. People learn, think and talk and metaphors. In fact, metaphor uses inescapable open communication. Metaphorical language is commonly used in poetry, music, and literature. Metaphors are a short cut to the two conclusions, opinions and decisions. Framing is an unavoidable part of human communication – we all use metaphors in our communications and good framing does as well. Metaphors influence subconsciously and are part of our natural thinking. Metaphor use is inescapable and powerful and enhances framing.
Words make a difference in how people interpret and react to what we say. By selecting the best way to label, describe and express ideas by framing them correctly, we greatly impact the reaction as well as understanding of listeners. Great trial lawyers learn how to frame their communication.